The decision of who to appoint as your executor or trustee is a huge one, and we’ve talked about it a bit in the past. Still, it’s important to make sure that you have the information you need to make the right choice with your Atlanta estate lawyer. This person will hold incredible responsibility for overseeing what becomes of your estate, and you want your choice to reflect this.
It’s not unusual to name your spouse as the executor or trustee, but there are certainly other options. You may determine that one of your adult children is a good choice or prefer to have a family friend in charge. In some cases, you may even place an attorney in the role. No matter who you choose, you’ll want to also list an alternate in case there is some reason your first choice is unable to take care of the duties required.
Some things to consider when choosing your executor or successor trustee:
- The process of closing an estate can take a very long time, so you want to choose someone who will be committed to following through.
- The person chosen will have access to your finances, and there are opportunities to abuse the trust placed in him or her. For this reason, among others, you want to choose a representative in whom you have complete trust.
- There are many details and conflicting interests that will need to be managed during the process, so you want to choose someone who is organized and able to juggle these responsibilities.
- Dealing with the estate requires working with a wide range of people and institutions. The person you choose to represent you must be able to clearly communicate with all of them.
- Because there are a lot of financial considerations to be made, it’s also best to choose someone who is responsible with money and has a decent grasp of how to manage it.
- The person chosen will likely need to spend time in your home or business, going to court, meeting with attorneys, etc. For this reason, estate lawyers in Atlanta will often recommend you choose a representative who is physically available, possibly even someone living in the area.
Finally, you want to ensure that the person you name to handle your estate is willing to take on the job. It’s best to discuss the responsibilities and expectations with him or her to make sure it’s something the person feels up to taking on. Spouses or children may feel like they would be unable to do the job in the midst of their grief, others may just not want the responsibility. By discussing it with them before having your Atlanta estate lawyer name them in your documents, you won’t be adding an extra burden to someone who isn’t able to accept it.
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The Superior Court Family Division uses Status Conferences to help parties resolve legal issues and possibly reach settlements prior to trial. There are 30-day, 60-day, and 120-day status conferences within the Family Division. During status conferences, parties meet with Judicial Officers or the Court to check jurisdiction and discuss issues in dispute and methods to resolve those issues. Discovery obligations are also reviewed and questions regarding temporary financial arrangements, possession of marital home, and child custody are discussed. During status conferences parties may also attempt mediation to resolve issues.
View a video clip of a 30-Day Status Conference
30-Day Status Conference on Contested Cases
Parties meet with Judicial Officers to check jurisdiction, venue, and to discuss issues in dispute and methods to resolve those issues. The Judicial Officer assigned to the case will check to ensure discovery obligations have been met. Questions regarding temporary financial arrangements, possession of marital home, and child custody are discussed. Mediation may be offered to resolve issues being discussed. A Guardian ad litem or Social Services Coordinator may be asked to investigate questions of child custody.
It is essential to the process that parties are prepared for their 30-day Status Conference. This will enable the Judicial Officer to move forward with the case. Parties subject themselves to the risk of having the 30-Day Status Conference rescheduled if the following items are not completed prior to the 30-day Status Conference.
Parties MUST complete the following documents and BRING to the 30-day Status Conference:
- Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Click here to download a PDF copy of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit for completion.Note: If Child Support is a legal issue in your case, the Georgia Child Support Commission’s Website has Excel Calculators and downloadable forms to assist in completing the calculations for Child Support.
- Answers to Interrogatories. Interrogatories are nothing more than questions. Each party must provide written answers to all Interrogatories (questions) and bring to the 30-Day Status Conference. Click here to download a PDF copy of the Interrogatories for each party to provide written answers.
- Required Documents to be Produced. It is mandatory that each party obtain certain documents and bring to the 30-Day Status Conference. Click here to download a PDF copy of list of the Required Documents to be Produced.
It is imperative that prior to the 30-Day Status Conference parties have thought about some of their issues and be able to clearly communicate these issues and wants to the assigned Judicial Officer.
For example, in a Divorce action, the Judicial Officer might cover with the parties the following: (this is not an exhaustive list)
- Any child custody issues?
- Parenting time? Should there be any restrictions on parenting time?
- How much for Child Support?
- Alimony? If so, how much?
- Retirement accounts to be divided? Bank accounts to be divided?
- Any property to be divided? What is the property?
- Any debt need to be divided? Any joint credit cards?
- Are there cars involved? Does each party own a car? Who will keep which car? Who will pay for each car? In whose name is it each car titled?
- Are there homes involved? Are there time shares involved? In whose name is each home or time share? Who will keep each house or time share? Who will pay each mortgage? In whose name is the mortgage, lease, or time share?
30-Day Status Conference on Uncontested Cases
At the 30-Day Status Conferences, cases in which the parties reached agreement before filing are presented to the Judicial Officer for review and entry of a Final Order. Some parties with contested cases are able to reach agreement at the status conference through the guidance of the Judicial Officer and the help of on-site mediation. The agreements are also presented to the Judicial Officer for review and entry of a Final Order.
SOURCE: Superior Court of Fulton County, Family Division
It will probably cost more initially to set up a well-drafted living trust than to have a will prepared by an Atlanta wills and trusts lawyer. A true cost comparison should include not only the expense to establish the will or trust, but also what it will cost should you become incapacitated and after you die.
The Key Takeaways:
A living trust document has more provisions than a will because it deals with issues while you are living and after you die, while a will only deals with issues that occur after your death.
A properly prepared and funded living trust will avoid court proceedings at incapacity and death. A will provides no such protection and can, in fact, ensure court intervention at both events, which can be very costly (in time, privacy and dollars) to your family.
Instructions at Death and Incapacity
Both a will and a living trust contain instructions for distributing your assets after you die. But a living trust also contains your instructions for managing your assets and your care should you become incapacitated.
A Living Trust Avoids the Costs of Court Interference at Incapacity and Death
A properly prepared and funded living trust (one that holds all of your assets) will avoid the need for a court guardianship and/or conservatorship if you become incapacitated. The person(s) you select will be able to manage your care and your assets privately, with no court interference.
A will can only go into effect at your death, so it can provide no instructions regarding incapacity. In that case, your family would almost certainly have to ask the court to establish a guardianship and/or conservatorship for your care and your assets—a process that is public, time consuming, expensive and difficult to end.
What You Need to Know. The same living trust document that can keep you out of a court guardianship at incapacity can also keep your family out of probate court when you die. But a will must go through probate. Depending on where you live, this can be costly and time consuming.
Costs to Transfer Assets…Pay Now or Later
There may be some minor costs to transfer assets into your living trust when you set it up, and then from your trust to your beneficiaries after you die. But these will be minimal if you and your successor trustee do much of the work yourselves. With a will, the probate court (with its costs and attorney fees) is the only way to transfer your assets to your heirs after you die. So you can pay now to set up your trust and transfer titles, or you can pay the courts and attorneys to do this for you after you die.
Actions to Consider
- Find out what probate costs are where you live. If your state has a fee schedule based on the value of probate assets, this will be fairly easy. If it has “reasonable” fees, ask an attorney to estimate what these fees would be if you die tomorrow and, if you are married, if your spouse dies the next day.
- Similarly, ask your Atlanta living trust attorney to estimate what the costs would be if you become incapacitated tomorrow and, if you are married, if your spouse becomes incapacitated the next day. (Practically speaking, this will be impossible to estimate because no one will be able to predict how long the incapacity will last or what complications might arise. The mere uncertainty of these costs should give you pause—and propel you to plan for incapacity.)
- Add these estimates to the cost of having a will prepared—and compare that to the cost of a living trust. When you make a true comparison, you may conclude that having a living trust actually costs less than a will.
If you’d like to find out whether a will or living trust is the best vehicle for your Atlanta Georgia estate plan, call us at 770.425.6060 and schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with us.
Working with a will lawyer in Atlanta can bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Those of us in this area of law are very aware of the fact that many people avoid important planning for this very reason. After all, there aren’t a whole lot of people who want to contemplate their own demise, let alone the feelings of those left behind.
Writing your own obituary can actually be kind of a cathartic experience that helps with the estate planning process. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own life, as well as to help shape how you will be remembered. It also takes some of the burden off of those who are left behind that might not be up to writing such an intense piece in the middle of grieving. You can write your obituary and have your will lawyer in Atlanta keep it in your file so that it is ready to go when it is needed.
What to Include
You don’t necessarily have to write a full obituary if you don’t want, but it’s a good idea to at least make a list of some key points to make it easier on the person who does the actual writing later. The guidelines for obituaries vary depending on where they will be published. Many funeral homes will place them on their web sites free of charge, but newspapers will charge for including them. A will lawyer in Atlanta will be able to tell you what local outlets expect when it comes to length and cost.
Some of the things that you may want to include are:
- Date and place of birth
- Education and employment background
- Military service
- Achievements and awards
- Family information regarding children, grandchildren, spouses, and parents
- Hobbies and interests
- A photo you would like used
In addition, you may want to include your wishes regarding memorials. If you’d like flowers sent to the church or funeral home, for instance, you can include that. It’s common for people to request that donations be made to a favorite charity “in lieu of flowers,” too.
Again, you may prefer not to write the entire obituary yourself, rather you may choose to just include this information in your documents so that your family and friends have it to refer to when they create the obituary after your death. If you do choose to write your own, you may want to review it with your Atlanta will lawyer every once in a while to ensure that it is kept up to date and reflects any recent changes.
For more information and resources on how to write your own obituary, please see this article on YourTribute.com. If you would like to begin to write your own obituary we recommend that you download an obituary template and read these articles on writing obituaries for more helpful advice.
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