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Important facts about trusts and wills

Many people in Georgia who are considering the estate planning process receive advice from well-intentioned friends and family members. Unfortunately, unless these family members are trained and worked in the field, this advice can often be erroneous, leading people to make decisions that could ultimately harm those who work to settle an estate after his or her passing. Fully understanding the elements of an estate plan, including wills and trusts, can help ensure that a person's family does not face a difficult situation involving the estate.

Some people falsely believe that they do not need a will if their estate is small. More specifically, some have been advised from well-meaning friends and family that unless their estate is worth more than $5.45 million that no estate planning is needed. However, that amount involves whether an estate is subject to a federal estate tax as opposed to whether a will is needed. Having a last will and testament can aid in settling an estate regardless of its value.

Another incorrect belief is that a will can help a person avoid probate. However, a will simply provides details to the court and family members regarding how the testator wants his or her estate divided. Since probate can be a lengthy and expensive process, many people utilize a trust to avoid it.

Often, trusts are misunderstand, prompting some in Georgia to decline to fully explore such an option. However, assets that are placed in a trust are still completely under the control of the trustee; property in a trust can continue to be managed as the trustee sees fit. Because most people have little experience with such tools, a professional with experience can help those ensure that important decisions regarding the divisions and administration of an estate are based on facts.

Source: tcpalm.com, "Common misconceptions about wills and trusts", Robert D. Schwartz, Dec. 2, 2016

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