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Estate Planning

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What is an Estate Plan?

Your estate consists of everything you own—your car, home, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, and personal possessions. 

Since you can’t take it with you, you probably want a say in what happens to your estate when you die. The only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your assets go to the people or organizations you care about is to write out your instructions. And it’s even better if you can make all of this happen with the least possible amount going to taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

That is estate planning. However good estate planning is much more than that. It should also include instructions for passing your values in addition to your valuables. Your estate plan can: 

  • Include instructions for your care if you become disabled
  • Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for your minor children
  • Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits
  • Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce
  • Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
  • Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
  • Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.

Estate planning is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.

Who needs an Estate Plan?

Many people think they’re not old enough or wealthy enough to need an estate plan. They’re wrong.

Everyone should have a plan for what will happen with their assets after they die or in the case of illness or injury. While it may seem like estate planning only matters if you’re older or wealthier, it’s impossible to know how long you’ll live or if you’ll become ill or disabled. And estate planning is just as important for families with modest means, because a good plan will prevent them from losing money.

No matter how old or wealthy you are, it’s smart to have a plan that protects your family no matter what the future brings.

Why create an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan is one of the most thoughtful and loving things you can do for yourself and for those you love. Having a properly prepared plan ensures that your wishes are known and followed, protects your family, and offers you and your family peace of mind.

What is a Personal Representative or Executor?

This is the person who is named in a will to administer the estate of a deceased person. The trustee administers the trust; the executor or personal representative administers the probate estate.

What happens if there is no will?

Every state has its own rules, but in Georgia and Florida, if you die without a will, the state will appoint someone to be the administrator of your estate. That person will make sure that all of your debts are paid, and then any remaining assets will be distributed among living family members according to rules set out by the state.  And if you have no living relatives, then your assets could become the property of the state.

If you want specific assets to go to specific people or to organizations or charities that you care about, the only way to ensure that your wishes will be honored is to have them spelled out in a will or trust. 

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What is the definition of decedent?

A decedent is a person who has died. 

What does probating a will mean?

Probate “estate administration” is a court supervised legal process that happens after someone dies. It  grants authority to the surviving spouse or other designated individual to access the deceased person’s assets, pay off any debts and taxes, and distribute the remainder to those named in the will.

If someone does not have a will,he or she is deemed to have intestate and the court will appoint an administrator to handle the estate. 

Where is a will probated?

Generally, wills are required to be probated in the Probate Court of the county in which the deceased person resided at the time of death.  

How long does the probate process take?

The probate process depends on the county that the will or estate is going to be administered in. Some counties take longer than others, and COVID-19 has impacted the court processing times. Prior to COVID, county processing times could be 3-6 months, now courts are taking much longer. 

There are other factors that may also affect probate processing timelines, including whether or not: 

  1. There are minor children involved
  2. The heirs are located outside of the country
  3. The heirs contest the will. In this case, the probate process can drag out for years, depending on the situation. That’s why it’s good to work with a reputable, experienced  attorney to keep your will up-to-date and clear or look into other options such as a trust. 

How much does an executor of an estate get paid in Georgia?

Barring any changes outlined by the will or other legal agreement, an executor in Georgia may be paid: 

  • 2.5% of any money that is received by or paid out of the estate
  • 10% of interest payments from any loans made from the estate
  • 3% of the value of real or personal property transferred to heirs

Who will care for your children if you can’t?

Our free guide, What Questions Should You Ask When Choosing Your Child’s Guardian? will help you: 

  • Evaluate the options
  • Choose wisely
  • Ensure your children are cared for
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Elder Law

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What is a Guardianship?

Guardianship is when the probate court appoints a guardian to make decisions for an adult  who has lost sufficient capacity to make or communicate significant decisions concerning his or her safety. Examples of when Guardianship can occur is when someone has developed dementia or alzheimers. 

What is a Conservator?

Conservatorship is similar to Guardianship, as defined above, but the adult has lost sufficient capacity to make or communicate significant responsible decisions concerning the management of his or her property.

Peace of Mind Doesn’t Happen By Itself

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