When it comes to creating your Last Will and Testament in Georgia, it is helpful to remember these points:
• Put it in writing.
• State it is your will.
• State whether prior wills and codicils are revoked.
• Name your legal heirs or say you have none. (A Georgia wills and trusts attorney can make sure you have included the right persons.)
• State that you want your estate to pay for your funeral and burial expenses; describe them.
• Name who is to be the representative of your estate (personal representative or executor).
• Name back-up representatives.
• State if your representative and back-up representative are free from bond, appraisals, inventories, returns.
• Name who is to be the guardian of your minor children if you and your spouse both die.
• Name back-up guardians.
• Name a trustee for your minor children if you and your spouse both die.
• Name back-up trustees.
• Set out the compensation and powers of your representative, children’s guardian, and trustee.
• State to whom you give your property; provide for a residuary clause.
• Clarify ownership of accounts with more than one name on them.
• If you divide your property among heirs, have you considered the effect of an outstanding mortgage on the person who receives that particular piece?
• If your estate is to pay all your “just debts”, do you want mortgages excepted?
• Is there a possible federal tax liability? Ask your Georgia wills attorney about testamentary trusts and gifts to legal charities.
• Ask your attorney if you need an “in terrorem” clause if you are concerned someone will contest the will.
• Sign in front of two witnesses at your Georgia estate planning attorney’s office. If the witnesses are needed, the attorney is best able to find them. To make things even easier when the time comes, you and the witnesses can sign a self-proving certificate in front of a notary to save the witnesses from having to come in if the will is uncontested. Ask the attorney about a codicil (amendment) to make changes in a will, to save having to redo the will.
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When you die, your last will and testament helps to ensure that your property is distributed among your family and friends as you wish.
What You Should Know:
- Because state laws regarding wills, detailed in the Official Code of Georgia, seem complex at times, you may want to talk to an attorney early in the process of estate planning.
- You can’t be forced into signing a will. In order for a will to be valid at your county probate court, you must have freely agreed to its terms.
- Wills are individual, so there’s no one form to use. You should make certain, though, that your will fully complies with state laws.
- You may identify in your will an executor who will work with the county probate court, manage your estate and pay off all your estate’s debts.
- If you ask a beneficiary of your will to serve as a witness, ask at least two trusted others who are not named in the will to serve as the other witnesses.
- To help the county probate court accept your will, you may want to self-prove the document. You’ll visit a notary public with the witnesses who signed your will, and all of you will sign an attachment to the will that states that the will is yours.
When should I update my will?
When you go through any major change in your life–a marriage, a divorce, a birth or adoption of a child, or a move between states–you should consider updating your will.
I’ve just recently moved to Georgia. Is my will valid here if I wrote it back in my old home state?
It depends. Speak with an estate attorney to review Georgia laws.
Trusts lawyers in Atlanta have the important job of helping their clients create a legacy that is compliant with a number of different laws. For the most part, these laws will vary from state to state. Some differences are minor, while others can impact the trust significantly. Someone who already has established a trust in one state may very well want to at least review it with a trusts lawyer when relocating to another.
For example, if you have created a trust in Georgia but then move to Florida for retirement, it’s a good idea to meet with a trusts lawyer in your new city. Likewise, someone moving from somewhere else in the U.S. to metro Atlanta should contact a Georgia trust lawyer to review the documents and potentially amend them to meet the law here.
Most often, when a trust is administered, it is done so under the laws of the state where the person resides. This can get a little tricky if you have residences in two states—say, if you’re a “snowbird.” In those situations, it’s best to work with trusts lawyers in both states. The changes needed may be as small as a little wording, but they could also be more complicated.
There are some estate planning documents that should always be addressed with a trusts lawyer when moving to a new state. Powers of attorney are vital for determining who can represent you should you become incapacitated, and those are administered under state law. Powers of attorney drawn up by a trusts lawyer in Atlanta may be disregarded by the courts in another area.
A final consideration in the discussion of where to establish a trust is the tax implications. By working with a good trusts lawyer, you can uncover which state may hold the best benefits for you, your estate, and your heirs. It is possible to have trusts set up in more than one state, though the complexities of doing so are absolutely something that should be done with the guidance of a knowledgeable professional with plenty of experience in trusts administration.
To schedule an appointment for a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session to help you review or create your estate plan, at one of our five metro Atlanta offices, we invite you to call 770-425-6060 to get started
If you’d like to give your loved ones and yourself the gift of peace of mind, please call Steve at 770-425-6060 or 770-421-0808 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who love their stepchildren as their own, it may come as a surprise that this bond isn’t enough when it comes to estate planning in Georgia. Because of the laws of inheritance, stepchildren do not automatically inherit when a stepparent dies.
Let’s say you’re creating your estate plan, and you stipulate that your estate should be divided equally among your children. The courts will typically only apply that to any biological children you may have, completely ignoring any claim from stepchildren. In these cases, it’s nice to think that the biological children would share, but it’s definitely not a foregone conclusion. Even if they did, there would be additional tax implications for all involved.
On the other hand, if you don’t have any biological children, your Atlanta will lawyer will tell you that your stepchildren will still not have any rights to your estate. Instead, it would pass to your spouse, your parents, your siblings, or even your cousins, rather than to the young people you helped to raise.
Should you wish for your stepchildren to receive an inheritance, you must make your wishes clearly, and legally, known. The most common way to do this would be to have a will lawyer in Atlanta draw up a will that outlines exactly what you want to happen with your estate. The document will need to be witnessed, and your attorney may advise you to take other precautions to make sure the will holds up when the time comes.
Another approach to estate planning for stepchildren would be to create a trust that names them as the beneficiaries. Trusts can be funded in a number of ways, such as with savings or assets; or they can be funded through life insurance. Various accounts, such as bank accounts, insurance policies, or IRAs can also be left specifically to stepchildren as long as the stepchildren are named as beneficiaries.
Adopted children do not face the same difficulties as stepchildren, as they are treated just like biological children according to the laws of succession. Children born outside of marriage may have to prove that they are descendents of the person who has passed away if there is no mention of them in a will.
Finally, this information should be kept in mind when your biological children are someone else’s stepchildren. Should you get remarried and then pass away, your estate goes directly to your spouse, not your children. When he or she passes, everything goes to his or her biological children. If you haven’t worked with a will lawyer in Atlanta to prepare for this, your children’s inheritance would legally go to their stepsiblings.
Blended families are common, but the laws of succession are often misunderstood. If you are a stepparent or your children have a stepparent, it is a good idea to talk to an Atlanta will lawyer to make sure everyone’s interests are considered.
Will and trust lawyers in Marietta see plenty of situations where parents who love their children are not entirely in love with their children’s spouses. This can make the estate planning process a little tricky, because the spouse can add tension and stir up drama that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. While some people include their sons-and-daughters-in-law in the planning process, it’s not all that unusual to leave them out.
For the most part, the son-in-law or daughter-in-law isn’t even mentioned in the will. They don’t really even have any legal standing to inherit from the parent unless they are specifically named. So, the parent would name his or her own child, but not the child’s spouse. If the adult child was no longer living, the property would probably end up being inherited by the grandchildren, rather than the spouse.
That’s not to say that a child’s spouse couldn’t end up with an inheritance. If the parents were to leave assets to the adult child and then the adult child passed away, his or her property would likely go to the spouse, and that includes what was inherited from the parents. One would hope that this property would eventually be passed on to the grandchildren (assuming there are grandchildren), but this is not a given, as the spouse would have the legal right to do whatever he or she wanted with it. In fact, if the spouse remarried, his or her new spouse would be the legal choice to inherit any property that was left behind, including that which was inherited this way.
So, can a Marietta will and trust lawyer keep your child’s spouse out of your plan entirely? Yes! You can work with your attorney to develop an inheritance trust that will protect any money you leave your kids from divorce, lawsuits, and creditors and keeps your money in the family.
Creating an estate plan can be emotional and having the additional drama of a difficult personality certainly won’t help matters any. On the other hand, you may absolutely adore your son-or-daughter-in-law and want to make sure that they are taken care of by your estate. In those cases, you will want to make sure that your Marietta GA estate planning lawyer specifically mentions them and what they are inheriting for your own peace of mind.
Residents of Georgia often find themselves procrastinating, even if they know the importance of meeting with a wills and trusts lawyer. The whole subject just seems so complicated, and there are certainly more enjoyable ways to spend one’s time then pondering death and taxes. The fact that things can be really confusing seems to give us all the encouragement we need to just tell ourselves that we’ll take care of the estate planning stuff “later.”
Of course, you know what I’m going to say next! You never know when “later” is going to make an appearance, and if you’re not set up in advance, all the legal advice about wills and trusts in the world won’t be of any help. Yes, this truly is something you need to do in advance. Perhaps demystifying some of the terms involved with wills and trusts will give you the confidence you need to take the next step.
Will vs. Living Will
Most people probably get that “will” and “living will” are two different things, but a whole lot of them couldn’t actually tell you what exactly makes them different. The term “will” is likely most familiar, as we’ve all seen them discussed on TV and in the movies. It’s that document that is used to tell the courts what should be done with a person’s assets after he or she dies.
In the movies, there’s usually a dramatic reading of the will with close-ups of shocked widows and angry siblings who have been unceremoniously cut out of the family fortune. While wills and trusts lawyers in Georgia do see their share of hurt feelings and miscommunications, things are rarely as dramatic as they are on the big (or small) screen.
While a will is used after death, a living will is not. It’s actually a document that includes a variety of instructions to be followed if you are alive but unable to speak for yourself for some reason. This is usually referred to as being “incapacitated.” You could be too ill to communicate, in a coma due to an accident, or some other variant that renders you unable to let doctors and others know what your wishes are regarding healthcare and other major decisions.
Trust vs. Living Trust
You may see a bit of a pattern here. A trust is generally used as a way to disperse assets after the owner has passed away. A trustee is put in charge of following very specific instructions that have been put in place to direct how the money and other assets in the trust are to be used.
A living trust, on the other hand, is used to protect many different kinds of assets during the owner’s lifetime. A Georgia wills and trusts lawyer may recommend a living trust for many different reasons. For example, this kind of trust can be used to allow the individual to stay in his or her home while transferring ownership.
Each of these types of wills and trusts is something that should be discussed with a knowledgeable attorney in the state where you reside, as laws will differ throughout the country.
We are here to answer your questions and to help you create a plan to make things easier on your loved ones if the unthinkable happens to you. Please call us at 770-425-6060 and we’ll give you a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, valued at $750, for NO CHARGE. This session will educate you so you can make the best decisions for your family.