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Buford Estate Administration & Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate administration and probate: Wife claims undue influence

As a person in Georgia ages and faces the prospect of his or her immortality, there is often a great deal of reflection regarding his or her legacy. Even when there are detailed plans in place regarding estate administration and probate, disputes can arise, resulting in litigation. Unfortunately, an estranged wife and the trustee of her husband's estate, a bank, are currently locked in such a conflict.

The conflict involves an estate valued at approximately $43 million. The creator of the estate, an 84-year-old man who died in Nov. 2016, met his current wife just months after his first wife passed away in 2002. Seven months later, they married. He dismissed any objections his friends had over his fast marriage to a woman 20 years younger than him.

Trusts could have benefited the estate of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Regardless of the size of their estate, most people in Georgia want to ensure that it is divided according to their wishes. One way to ensure that this happens, while protecting the overall value of the estate, is through the creation of trusts. Some professionals argue that the case of Philip Seymour Hoffman is an example of the potential pitfalls of leaving estate distribution to a will alone.

Reports indicate that Hoffman did not want his three children to be "trust fund kids." As a result, he used a will to leave his entire estate to his girlfriend, the mother of his children. The expectation was that she would ensure that the children were provided for.

The importance of creating wills in Georgia

There are many important documents that most people in Georgia would claim that they require. These documents may include birth certificates and the deeds to their houses, for examples. However, many professional argue that wills are equally important.

Despite the importance of a will, some reports indicate that over a majority of people in the United States have not created one. Without a will, the state will ultimately be left to make many determinations without the input of the person. Not only will the state decide how assets will be divided, it will also be left to make custody determinations if there are minor children. In some cases, a person's assets could ultimately end up going to the state if there is no will in place.

Estate administration and probate: Easing the process for family

Most people in Georgia recognize the importance of the estate planning process. However, in the hustle of life, it is easy to put the task off for another day. Even once a plan is created, it likely needs to be updated periodically to ensure that changing laws and goals are addressed. Working with an experienced professional can often help people ensure that the estate administration and probate process is as smooth as possible for surviving loved ones.

Additionally, there are certain steps that people can take to help ensure that their wishes are reflected in their plan and can be met following their death. First, understanding the overall state of an estate can help with planning. Taking an accurate look at the value of the estate can ensure that adequate plans are made in regard to the administration of the estate.

Easing estate administration and probate with a digital plan

There is likely a large number of people in Georgia who pay their bills and manage other types of accounts electronically. This option has several benefits, including helping to reduce paperwork in a person's house, save money and help the environment. However, it can be troublesome during the estate administration and probate process if estate administrators or trustees are not aware of the existence of certain assets and debts and are unable to access them.

While more states are enacting laws that address how trustees and others can access digital assets and obtain passwords, many states still do not. Fortunately, including specific directions regarding digital accounts as part of an estate plan can significantly help those trusted with overseeing a person's estate. Relatively simple actions can significantly ease this process.

The importance of wills and other estate planning documents

Everyone is likely aware of their mortality. However, many people in Georgia and across the country put off estate planning for another day for a variety of different reasons. Regardless of the reasons, the creation of wills and other estate planning documents can significantly reduce the burden that surviving family members experience upon the passing of a loved one.

The cases involving several celebrities illustrate many of the pitfalls associated with not having a will or trust or having a plan that is out of date. For example, when James Gandolfini passed away, he left behind an estate valued at approximately $70 million. However, some reports indicate that a large portion of the estate went to taxes. Others, such as Anna Nicole Smith and Philip Seymour Hoffman, named their oldest children in their wills, excluding younger children.

Trusts: Dispute between Alan Thicke's children and wife

The unexpected loss of a loved one is the worst nightmare of many families in Georgia. Even in situations where the loved one has planned ahead and created trusts -- for example, to help explain their wishes in regard to the division of their estate -- confusion over the person's wishes due to perceived contradictions in legal documents can create even more stress for family members. Unfortunately, reports indicate that the oldest sons of Alan Thicke are involved in an estate dispute with Thicke's wife.

Thicke passed away unexpectedly in Dec. 2016 of a heart attack while playing hockey with his youngest son. Since his death, his oldest sons, who serve as the executors of his living trust, have filed a petition in court to clarify the interplay between the prenuptial agreement signed by Thicke and his wife in 2005 and instructions left in his trust which had been updated in 2016. The sons accuse the woman of overreaching and greed, while she claims she is only seeking to ensure that Thicke's estate is divided according to his wishes.

Protecting trusts in the event of a divorce

Most people in Georgia work hard to support themselves in life. Many are successful enough that they have assets to leave behind for family members after their death. However, there are many special considerations when it comes to distributing assets. For example, some people want to ensure that family members retain the asset, rather than it being divided with a spouse in the event of a divorce. Fortunately, there are some ways to protect an estate in the event a beneficiary seeks to end his or her marriage, including the creation of trusts.

There are a variety of ways to protect assets obtained through an inheritance from division in a divorce. One option is to ensure that they are titled only in the beneficiary's name. Ensuring that an inherited property is kept completely separate from marital assets can help the beneficiary maintain the asset as separate property. 

Contesting the validity of wills: Judge rules will is fake

While it serves multiple purposes, estate planning is one of the most important things a person can do to ensure that his or her wishes are met when they have passed away. Those in Georgia who have chosen to create wills with an experienced attorney can help ensure that their wishes are known and less susceptible to a successful challenge. A judge has recently tossed a will that one woman claims a deceased man who lived in another state created before his death.

The man passed away in Jan. 2015 when he was 34 years old. According to reports, he suffered fatal injuries in a car accident. Following his death, a woman claimed that she discovered his will, locked in a gun safe. That will purportedly left everything -- including a $2 million civil settlement -- to the woman's daughter, who she claimed was engaged to the man at the time of his death. It excluded the man's only son.

Creating trusts as part of the estate planning process

Many families in Georgia choose to take measures that will allow them to ensure that the needs of their family are met even when they are no longer around. One way to do this is through the creation of trusts. Although they can be complicated to create, many people have found a revocable living trust the perfect estate planning tool.

Some professionals describe a trust as being similar to a box. Items are placed in the box, and a document is created, often by an experienced attorney, to provide instructions on how the box will be maintained and accessed. For example, the document will name a trustee to manage the box as well as directions on how and when items can be removed from the box and by whom.

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Phone: 678-288-2010
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