By Steve Worrall, Cobb County Probate Lawyer
Avoiding probate in Cobb County, Georgia, is a very real concern for people who want to make sure certain assets such as stocks, bonds, brokerage and bank accounts automatically pass to their heirs upon their death.
In such a scenario, Transfer on Death Agreements (also known as TOD’s) can be a very useful and convenient estate planning tool in making sure your loved ones are financially taken care of in your absence.
Essentially, Transfer on Death Agreements allow you to pass ownership of your accounts directly to a beneficiary of your choosing when death occurs. Without such designations, each account would have to go through the probate court before it can be distributed to your desired heirs.
Yet you may be wondering, “What’s wrong with going through Cobb County probate and why bother with tools such as TOD’s to avoid it?”
Well for starters, many people wish to avoid involvement with the Cobb County Probate Court simply because it could take a year or longer before the funds actually reach your desired beneficiaries. This is problematic for families who desperately need the assets to pay for burial expenses, outstanding medical bills, mortgage payments, and general living expenses.
Not to mention, the value of your assets passing through probate may be reduced by as much as 5%, as mandatory attorney and court fees will be taken directly out of the estate.
Finally, one of the greatest drawbacks of probate is that the value of your assets will be made public for the whole world to see. This aspect of Cobb County probate is especially troublesome for people who do not want every scam-artist or busybody in town knowing what their heirs stand to inherit upon their passing.
Yet it is important to remember that while TOD agreements will help you avoid probate on some of your assets, it won’t help you avoid probate on the rest of your personal effects such as jewelry, collections, family heirlooms, the contents of your home, etc.
Nor will TOD agreements help you minimize the amount of estate taxes your family might have to pay upon your passing or protect your assets if incapacity and not death occurs.
That’s why it’s so important you speak with a Cobb County probate attorney before making any decisions about your financial or legal affairs. While a TOD is indeed a useful estate planning tool that can help you avoid probate, it may not be the best – or the only tool your family needs to ensure they are protected should something unexpectedly happen to you.
Fortunately, we’ve made the process of meeting with a Cobb County probate lawyer easier than ever by offering free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750) to anyone that takes the time to read this informational article. However, these sessions are limited to 10 per month, so call 770-425-6060 to reserve your spot today.
By Steve Worrall, Cobb County GA Probate Lawyer
You finally got around to making a will, so now you can rest easy.
You went online, found the forms, filled them out and you’re done. If anything happens to you, your loved ones are taken care of.
One less thing to worry about, right?
I hate to cause you more sleepless nights, but I can say as a Cobb County GA probate lawyer that just having a will is not the “be all and end all” of planning your estate.
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about what your will actually does and doesn’t do:
This is What A Sound Will Actually Does
Your will distributes property that you own at the time of your death. You can divide up your property any way you choose as long as your state doesn’t prevent you from disinheriting a spouse or children. If you intend to do either of those things, you need to talk to a Cobb County GA probate lawyer and make sure it’s even legal. If you have property that would legally pass outside your estate (things like joint property, life insurance, or retirement plans), you will does not provide for how those assets are distributed unless you’ve made them payable to your estate. Additional estate planning documents are required in order to do that.
Needless to say, there are various types of wills and they can be incredibly simple or terribly complex. A very simple will is called exactly that – a simple will. A will that establishes trusts is usually called a testamentary trust will. If your will leaves assets to a trust created during your lifetime, it is called a pour-over will. If you have either a testamentary trust will or a pour-over will, it should provide for property management and protection from creditors for your heirs and minimize their tax obligations on whatever property they inherit.
Aside from creating trusts and distributing property, you can also designate a guardian for your minor children. If your will is properly written and you’ve set up the right kind of trust and chosen the right trustee to handle your minor child’s estate, the need for court supervision will be limited or even eliminated. The same could hold true if you name an executor. Check with a Cobb County GA probate lawyer to ensure that you’re taking full advantage of the laws in your state and that these designations are made in accordance with those laws.
What Your Will Does Not Do
If you have any nonprobate property, such as real estate that would pass to a surviving owner, or an IRA or insurance policy payable to a named beneficiary, your will does not determine how those assets are passed on. These types of assets are governed by contract law. Just because you list them in your will does not ensure that they will be handled as you’ve requested. Always make sure that your beneficiary designations are up to date and in line with your intentions.
Other types of nonprobate property you will want to account for are any jointly owned property, trusts, annuities, and retirement benefits and life insurance, to name a few.
Makes filling out a form online and thinking you can sleep better at night a little less appealing, doesn’t it? A simple piece of paper will not necessarily ensure that everyone gets what you want them to have and that Uncle Sam doesn’t take more of what you’ve worked for than your loved ones receive.
If you would like an expert opinion on exactly how effective your current will is, or advice on actually drafting a will, call us at (770) 425-6060 to schedule your Peace of Mind Planning Session today. We can help ensure you take the right steps to take care of your loved ones if something happens to you.
Also, as part of our estate planning process, we will interview you about your specific wishes and what you want your family to know. We provide you with a copy of the interview so you can pass on the information you want your family to remember. We understand that it’s not just about the paper you leave behind, but the voice you leave behind. Our Peace of Mind Planning Session is normally $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session with me at no charge. Call today and mention this article.