Wills and trusts administration lawyers in Cobb County, Georgia, often have the opportunity to work with local families who—in addition to planning for their regular home—also have a vacation home to take into consideration during the planning process. While you might think that real estate prices or the vacation home’s location would be the driving forces behind putting it through the wills and trusts administration process, there are actually other, highly compelling reasons.
Vacation homes don’t just come with the baggage you pack to spend a family holiday on the lake, in the woods, or on the coast; they also come with a lot of emotional history. By working with a wills and trusts administration lawyer, those leaving the vacation home behind can take this history into consideration. They may be best served to really spend some time taking their heirs’ perspectives into consideration when determining how the home should be handled.
For some family members, the vacation home may be an important part of family history, full of memories and personal rites of passage. These folks might prefer that the property be safeguarded in some sort of trust or passed as-is to heirs in a will. On the other hand, there may be family members who are less emotionally attached to the home and see it as their parents’ investment in a stable financial future. These family members would be more inclined to sell the property and share the proceeds.
There are plenty of other aspects of the situation that the original owners would want to explore with a wills and trusts administration lawyer in Marietta GA. For example, would any potential heirs be financially able to maintain the property, pay taxes on it, etc? If not, then it may be time to consider either selling the vacation home or finding a means to fund the trust so it can meet these obligations.
Other thoughts to keep in mind:
- Do heirs live close enough to the vacation home to actually use it?
- Could you leave the vacation home to those who would most appreciate it and balance that with a different inheritance for others?
- Is there someone you could name as a trustee who could oversee the property on behalf of the trust?
- Would it be possible for some family members to buy others out of their portion of the property?
- Could the property be rented out when not in use by family members as a way to support its own upkeep?
Because there are so many variables that can come into play—money, grief, family tension, tradition, etc., etc., dealing with a vacation property during estate planning is something that is probably best done under the guidance of an experienced wills and trusts administration lawyer in Marietta.
For additional questions about estate planning or wills and trust administration in Georgia or to speak with a will or trust lawyer, contact our office at 770-421-0808 for assistance.
Heirs at Law in Georgia
The following outline is a summary of the Georgia law that determines who are heirs at law of a decedent (the person whose death without a will (intestacy)) requires the administration of his or her estate). The actual statute may be found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Section 53-2-1.
The heirs are:
- The spouse if there are no children (and no children who died before the decedent leaving living children of their own or descendants of living children)
- The spouse and children if there are children, and the children of any child or children who died before the decedent (as well as the deceased child’s descendants if any of the deceased child’s children also predeceased the decedent)
- The parents if there is no spouse or children, descendants of deceased children, grandchildren, etc.
- If no spouse, children, descendants of children, or parents survived the decedent, the brothers and sisters of the decedent and the descendants of any deceased brother or sister who predeceased the decedent
- If none of the above were living at decedent’s death, the grandparents
- If none of the above, uncles and aunts and descendants of any deceased uncle or aunt, but if all uncles and aunts are deceased, then first cousins share equally, rather than siblings taking their parent’s share
The more remote degrees of kinship are determined by a mathematical formula involving the relative in question and the closest common ancestor. If you have gotten this far, please consult OCGA sec. 53-2-1(b)(8). You may also need the assistance of a Georgia probate attorney. This information is also available in the form of a flow chart.
SOURCE: Athens-Clarke County.
Even if someone has a will in place, it’s still quite likely that his or her estate will need to be overseen by a good probate attorney in Cobb County. These professionals understand the incredibly complex process that goes along with closing out someone’s estate after he or she has passed away. Those who have worked with an estate planning lawyer can sometimes avoid probate through the use of tools like revocable living trusts, but if you are in a situation where the estate in question needs to go through the legal process, it makes sense to get a qualified probate attorney on board.
One of the things the lawyer will do is to help you better understand the steps of the probate process in Georgia. Knowledge is power, and having a reasonable expectation of what to expect can make probate a little less intimidating.
While every situation is different, a typical probate process in Georgia will look something like this:
- The validation of the will. The will needs to be proven valid and filed at the country probate court.
- The court will appoint an executor. The will usually nominates someone for the position, but the executor will not have legal authority to take actions until approved by the court.
- An inventory is made of all the assets, as well as a determination if the estate is owed money by any other parties. At this time, a special checking account may be created to take care of the estate’s obligations.
- The outstanding debts of the decedent and the ongoing expenses of the estate will be identified and paid. These debts should be uncovered in the previous steps.
- The remaining property will be distributed to heirs based upon the wishes outlined in the will and according to the laws of Georgia, after approval by the court.
This is obviously a simplified look at what happens during the process, but even from this brief list, it is possible to see why it is so beneficial to have an experienced probate lawyer in Cobb County involved. He or she not only oversees the legal aspects of probate—filing paperwork and keeping things moving forward—but also guides the executor on what duties need to be fulfilled. Ideally, the probate process will take only a few months, but due to the time it takes to obtain court hearings and the built in waiting periods to ensure creditors are paid, this timeframe is typically stretched out to take a year. If any issues arise or there is disagreement among the heirs the timeframe is even longer. A probate lawyer will help to avoid as many pitfalls as possible so that the estate can be closed efficiently and in a timely manner.
Many of you who have been asked by a family member of close friend to serve as the trustee of a trust are honored that the trust owner feels confident in relying on their good judgment to undertake this important responsibility. And it’s very likely you have no idea what you have just said yes to take on.
Being a trustee means that you are responsible for all oversight and direction of the assets of the Trust. As a Trustee, you have what is known as a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of that trust. There are laws you must abide by in administering the trust, in addition to the terms of the trust that set out your duties as trustee.
A trustee’s duties include, but are not limited to:
- Administering the trust according to its terms
- Communicating with beneficiaries about the various activities of the trust.
- Investing and managing trust assets in a prudent manner
- Accounting for and paying any taxes or fees
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries as outlined in the trust
- Making an accounting of trust assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements to beneficiaries.
As a Trustee, you may find yourself involved with the probate process at some point and have to go into Court to marshal assets. If some of the assets of the estate were not properly transferred into the trust, this process can be overwhelming, especially if you do not have prior experience in this area.
Thankfully, with a good Atlanta trusts administration lawyer on board, you do not have to navigate this process alone. Engaging experienced legal help is always the best option for trustees, with the trust being responsible for any fees incurred for legal services.
If you would like some guidance on trust administration or planning for smooth administration of an estate, call our Marietta trust administration lawyer office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but if you mention this article and we still have room on our calendar this month, we will waive that fee. Call us today at 770-425-6060 and mention this article.
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Estate planning lawyers in Cobb County have always had to keep up with the times, and this is just as true in Georgia as it is anywhere else. Often these changes include things like new legislation, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as differing lifestyles and advancing technologies. Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your Facebook when you die?
It’s a question that even the legal world is starting to address. Of course, Facebook is only one of the social networks out there, and it’s likely that more will emerge, with some taking over the spotlight. For now, Facebook is certainly one of the most talked about, as Facebook has reached a billion users. As of November of 2012, Twitter had 500 million, Google+ had 400 million, Skype had 280, and LinkedIn had 175 million. And this represents only a fraction of the social networks that are out there.
New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were some of the first states to start taking a look at how estate planning attorneys might assist clients in designating personal representatives to take over their social media accounts should the original owner become deceased or incapacitated. Some people are referring to this as an “online executor,” and it’s even being suggested to officially name this person in the will or trust.
What About Facebook?
While it still remains to be seen how things will play out, especially as newer technologies become part of the Cobb County estate planning landscape, Facebook (as well as many other social media networks) already does have a system in place for dealing with the death of a user.
When someone passes away, Facebook allows another person to notify them. They will need to be able to supply the individual’s full name (used on the account), email address used to create the account, and the URL of the deceased’s profile. This is done through a form. In addition, the person must report their relationship with the deceased.
At this point, Facebook will ask what should be done with the profile. Some families prefer to take the entire thing down. Others choose the option of “memorializing” the page. When this happens, Facebook allows only those who were already confirmed as friends to see and post on the page. Many friends do this as a way to leave memories or express condolences to those left behind. If the account has been memorialized, it is removed from the general search function.
Another common option is for people to create their own pages in memory of a friend or family member. This can even be done in conjunction with the memorializing of the original page. The benefit is that this allows those who were not confirmed friends on the original account to leave messages, post photos, etc.
So, do you need to get a Cobb County will lawyer involved when it comes to your Facebook account? The answer to that is “maybe.” If your account is part of your business strategy, for example, you might find it to be even more imperative. Even for those who just use Facebook and other social media for personal communication, naming an online executor is something to consider.
Our Cobb County wills, trusts and probate law firm can help you get started in creating a digital asset protection plan that best meets your personal or business needs. For more information or to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, please give our office a call at 770-425-6060.
Usually, a person isn’t even aware of what a probate lawyer does until he or she is in need of one, after a family member has died and help is needed immediately. But it’s a great idea to hire a probate lawyer before you actually “need” his or her services so things can go as smoothly as possible when it comes to taking an estate through the probate process.
The probate lawyer’s job is to assist families as an estate passes through the court system so it can be distributed properly. There are several steps that the court must go through to close an estate, and the attorney makes sure everything is started and followed through on, as these steps are being followed.
Some basics of probate include:
• Validating the will
• Creating an inventory of assets
• Getting appropriate appraisals for assets
• Creating a list of debts
• Paying debts
• Dispersing the remaining property according to the will
If there is no will, the estate is said to be “intestate,” and the court will have even more say in what becomes of the decedent’s property.
Not every estate needs a probate lawyer. Some families have placed their assets into trusts that don’t go through the probate process. Some wills are simple and easy to execute, such as where there are little to no debts and common property is left to a surviving spouse alone. In other cases, though, hiring a probate lawyer will simplify the process for everyone involved and will most likely save the estate a fair amount of money. That’s because the attorney can implement strategies to help lower the taxes that must be paid.
He or she can also become an objective outside party who can assist the executor of the will where family tensions run high. Along those same lines, if someone with a legal or financial interest in the estate wants to contest the will, it makes sense to have a probate attorney working to make sure the decedent’s wishes are carried out to the best of the court’s ability. Finally, it can be a good idea to involve a probate lawyer where an individual has a terminal illness. The attorney can help that person to get their affairs in order by drawing up a will and understanding first-hand what the person wants for the estate.
There are many tasks that the probate lawyer will perform for the estate such as:
• Filing documents with the court
• Creating lists of assets
• Placing legal notices in newspapers
• Contacting creditors
• Making sure taxes are paid on the estate
A good probate lawyer will keep current on relevant laws as they change and will work to help the clients and heirs follow all of the right procedures while doing their best to protect their interests. If we can assist you and your family, please call us at 770-425-6060.