It has been said: “There’s hell, and then there’s probate.”
If you are dealing with an estate that must go through the probate process in Cobb County, Georgia, your smartest move will likely be working with an experienced Marietta probate lawyer. There are cases where simple estates will move through fairly easily, but there is still a matter of paperwork, accounting, etc. to consider; and a probate lawyer can save you an incredible amount of time and hassle.
The best way to reduce the costs of the probate process in Georgia is making sure your estate planning has been done in advance. This means you’ve set up wills, trusts, and any other applicable legal documents so those you leave behind won’t have to deal with taking the entire estate through the court system. Trusts, such as a revocable living trust, are one of the most common tools for avoiding probate, but there are some other possible options.
Some people think that having a will means your estate will bypass the process. Any reputable probate lawyer in Marietta will tell you, however, this isn’t the case. Having a will is still important, as it provides important directions for the dissemination of your estate, but it doesn’t get your heirs off the hook when it comes to probate.
If the estate is truly a “small” one, then you may be able to avoid probate. This can happen where there the only thing left behind is personal property. In these situations, there is no real estate to be inherited. The laws regarding the allowable value of an estate to be considered in this group can change, so it might be helpful to at least chat with a Marietta probate lawyer to see if the estate qualifies. If so, the heir may create an affidavit that will work instead of going through probate. There may also be some simplified court procedures available to heirs of these small estates.
Some states allow for real estate to be transferred after death without going through probate. This kind of deed must be created in advance and will specify it doesn’t take effect until the owner of the property has died. These deeds are NOT recognized in Georgia, so do not be taken in by any online service that offers to handle it for you. Deeds can be prepared, though, that leave a remainder interest in real estate. This should not be attempted without advice of an experienced Marietta wills and trusts attorney, however, because these deeds cancan create problems for the original owner if he or she later needs to apply for Medicaid assistance. No real estate can be transferred via a simple “gentleman’s agreement” and a deed requires legal preparation, signatures, and notarization before being filed with the appropriate county clerk.
These are just two tools available to those who want to avoid the eventual need for a probate lawyer. If they have not been put into place, or you’re not sure if these rules apply to you, speak with a qualified attorney in advance.
If you need to review your own plan or if you’ve lost a loved one and need help dealing with winding up their affairs, please call our office today at (770) 425-6060 to set up a Georgia Estate Review Session with our experienced estate lawyers. Do not go through this alone. The GeorgiaFamilyLaw team is here to help you and your family.
Probate lawyers in Marietta GA work with their clients to put together plans that clearly explain what the client wants. At least, that’s the hope. When it comes to the administration of a will, however, there are several instances where a will is contested, often by an adult child of the decedent.
One of the biggest problems that leads to a will being contested has to do with communication within the family. This can relate to parents not communicating their wishes to their children and relying on a will to do it for them, or to siblings not communicating with one another during the will administration so that everyone has a different perspective on what is going on.
There are several reasons a will can be contested, and there are also ways that our Cobb County Georgia probate lawyers help families and individuals proactively avoid the expense and drama.
Unequal Distribution Among Beneficiaries
When one sibling receives less than another (either in reality or in perception), it can trigger a desire to contest the will. Really, though, there are plenty of good reasons for an unequal distribution. Perhaps one child acted as the parent’s caretaker, and a bigger portion of the estate is being left to him or her as compensation. Sometimes a business is left to one or more siblings, with a larger portion of the personal estate left to another. It’s almost impossible to make these things “even,” and some siblings may choose to squabble about it.
In many cases, these issues can be avoided or mitigated by making sure to explain in the will the reason for decisions that are being made. That way, not only is there an explanation that can help stop a will from being contested, there is also recourse for the courts to rule in favor of the original intentions.
A commonly-cited reason for stopping the will administration process by contesting the will is “diminished capacity.” In these cases, someone with a stake in the outcome of the will tells the courts that he or she believes that the deceased wasn’t capable of making good decisions due to some sort of mental impairment. Even if you are perfectly reasonable and sound at the time that you make changes to your will, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t come back after your death and suggest that you weren’t.
In order to help discourage this from happening during the Cobb County probate court process, it may be helpful to put your reasons for changes directly into the will. Again, this comes back to communication. If you communicate why you are making changes by writing it into the will, you can help avoid some major issues. Additionally, you may even wish to have your doctor evaluate you at the time to ensure that you are not suffering from diminished capacity.
Disinheritance of one beneficiary can certainly trigger a lawsuit against the estate. While you may have perfectly good reasons for the disinheritance, that doesn’t mean that the disinherited person will agree. Sometimes just contesting the will on these grounds is enough to get the other heirs to provide a financial settlement in order to avoid a drawn-out and expensive court process.
As mentioned above, communication is key. Describe in the will why you have made the decisions you have regarding disinheriting someone. Cover your bases when it comes to diminished capacity by speaking with your doctor. You may also want to discuss your decision with a third party (perhaps your attorney) who will be able to bring that understanding to the situation when it comes time for the actual will administration.