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.
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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