Georgia Estate Planning Blog

Legal documents needed for end-of-life matters

Having a properly drafted will is an important part of an estate plan. However, there are other end-of-life documents Georgia residents should have on hand.

A living will details what type of medical treatments individuals want and do not want to have conducted under certain circumstances. It can alleviate the pressure on loved ones who would otherwise have to assume what the incapacitated individual would prefer. Copies of living wills should be readily available, and loved ones should be advised of their location.

The pros and cons of joint tenancies and trusts

Some people who are creating an estate plan in Georgia might wonder whether they can pass assets down to their heirs while avoiding the delays of probate. This can be done with either a joint tenancy or a trust.

A joint tenancy is less expensive and easier to set up than a trust. However, it does have some disadvantages. In essence, a joint tenancy basically means that one person owns the asset along with another individual. For example, this might be a bank account. One disadvantage is that it means that both people have access to the account. Therefore, a beneficiary who is not trustworthy might take all the money out of the account. Even if the beneficiary is very responsible, in the event of a divorce, insolvent credit or bankruptcy, the money in the account could go to an ex-spouse or creditors.

What to know about decanting

In the past, Georgia grantors had little recourse if they wanted to change or put an end to an irrevocable trust. To do so, it generally cost a lot of money plus the consent of every beneficiary. However, decanting statutes may make it easier to make changes or cancel an irrevocable trust. The decanting process involves moving assets from the original trust to a second one with modified terms.

The authority for the trustee to take such action may be granted by terms of the original trust. It may also be granted by state decanting statutes or common law. Decanting may be beneficial when the terms of a trust are no longer in the best interests of the beneficiary or others impacted by the trust. For instance, if an individual was to receive payments from the trust, it may not be the best idea to do so if that person has substance abuse issues.

Estate planning and divorce

Estate plans are useful in protecting assets for intended beneficiaries. Not having a well-planned estate plan in place when one gets a divorce can result in unfortunate consequences for Georgia residents who have specific ideas about what should happen to their assets.

In one situation, a man who had received a multi-million dollar payout as a result of an accident had signed a prenuptial agreement that established him as the sole owner of these funds, which was placed in a trust. After some time had passed in his marriage, the man assigned his wife 80 percent of the money. The remaining 20 percent of the trust was assigned to his other family members.

Estate planning for couples without children

Georgia couples who do not have children might think they do not need an estate plan. However, an estate plan is just as important for them. While preserving wealth for their descendants might not be a concern, they may still have assets they want to leave for loved ones, a charity or even for a pet. Furthermore, an estate plan can be important for ensuring that a person is protected in case of becoming incapacitated.

When a person is unable to make medical decisions because of illness, the spouse usually steps in to make those decisions followed by the children. Therefore, it may be particularly important for people who do not have children to choose a patient advocate who will oversee their health care needs. Couples should meet with their patient advocate to ensure the individual knows and understands their wishes for medical care. It may also be important to create a power of attorney for someone to manage finances. These and other precautions may help ensure that older people without families are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.

Different elements of a general power of attorney

As you prepare your estate plan, it is important that you select the proper person or people to handle your affairs. Such individuals hold a great amount of power in your place, so it is important to select trustworthy, capable trustees.

Depending on the size of your estate and your physical condition, it may be beneficial to make specific designations. There are a few elements of the power of attorney title that you should be aware of before making your decision.

Making a valid will in Georgia

The technicalities of making a will can seem fairly simple, yet many people slip up on them, often because they underestimate the importance of getting every detail right. When you put thought and care into the disposition of your assets, the last thing you want is for a court to find the will invalid and distribute your estate according to intestacy laws.

The best way to ensure you leave a valid disposition of your wishes is to consult a Georgia estate planning attorney. This can help you comply with legal requirements and learn about alternatives or additions to a will that can make your plans more effective.

Entrepreneurs and estate plans

Many successful entrepreneurs in Georgia have allowed their estate plans to lapse. This means that if the unexpected occurs, their loved ones may not be properly provided for. People who want to limit taxes and ensure that their assets are allocated properly after they perish should have a current estate plan.

Eliminating an estate tax balance is not difficult. In order to do so, however, it is necessary to relinquish control over certain assets. For example, placing specific assets in charitable trusts can zero out the taxes for an estate, but this will require transferring all control of the assets to the trust as well as the wealth associated with the assets.

Power of attorney red flags

When individuals Georgia begin to work on an estate plan, they may decide to provide financial power of attorney to one of their children, another relative or a family friend. The person who has power of attorney can make certain financial decisions for the individual if he or she becomes incapacitated.

While a power of attorney is often a good way to protect oneself and one's assets during a difficult time, there are also risks involved in giving someone else this much power. There have been cases in which people have abused their power to take advantage of someone who was elderly, ill or recovering from a severe accident. In some cases, the victim found that his or her finances were neglected, mismanaged or stolen.

Estate plan options for an IRA

People in Georgia who are creating an estate plan may not think they need anything more than a will. However, there are several types of assets that are passed down using a beneficiary designation and not a will. Among those are annuities, life insurance policies, accounts that are payable or transferable on death, and IRAs.

Beneficiary designations should be reviewed after major family events to be certain they remain current. However, a form beneficiary designation might not be sufficient for an IRA. The lack of succession planning could create family problems. Furthermore, there are other possibilities for the IRA besides simply passing the asset down to a family member that can create wealth across generations.

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Johns Creek Office
11555 Medlock Bridge Road, Suite 100
Johns Creek, GA 30097

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Phone: 770-822-2723
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1755 North Brown Road, Suite 200
Lawrenceville, GA 30043

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