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Duluth Georgia Estate Planning Legal Blog

Estate planning can provide for pets

For many Georgia residents, their pets are their closest companions in life. Therefore, it makes sense for owners to be concerned with the care their pets will receive after they pass away. People want to provide for their children, other loved ones and even favorite charities, but pets have a special vulnerability. After all, they cannot provide for themselves or even express their needs. People may ask others if they are willing to look after their beloved pets after death, but these kinds of verbal promises are most frequently unenforceable.

Almost 66% of Americans are pet owners. Some pets have longer lifespans, such as birds, horses and turtles, while other pets like dogs and cats may need specialized care or expensive surgical treatments. Pets are considered property under the law, so they could be passed in a person's will. However, the pet would need care before the will is probated. In addition, the new owner of the pet would not be subject to ongoing oversight, nor would he or she receive distributions of funds for its care. Some pets may wind up in other homes or in shelters after their original owners pass away.

Things to think about when estate planning

Estate planning is not a particularly fun topic, so many people put off thinking about it. However, estate planning should not be rushed. It is a broad category that could encompass many aspects of one's life. Here are a few considerations Georgia residents might have when creating an estate plan.

Those who own property and assets might wish to consider using trusts. Family trusts allow for easier asset distribution, and those who already have a trust must remember to keep updating this estate planning tool. This may be necessary as children have their own families with grandchildren or when divorce occurs.

The many benefits of making a will

There are many benefits to creating a will. For instance, a prepared estate owner in Georgia can avoid state intestacy laws that govern how property is distributed. A will also allows the creator to name a caregiver for a minor child or decide who gets to care for a pet.

Even if an individual doesn't have a lot of money now, they may receive an unexpected windfall in the future. An example would be if a loved one dies in an accident and the estate receives a settlement. Creating a will allows the estate owner to spell out exactly who gets their money. Furthermore, it's not uncommon for individuals to have digital assets such as social media accounts. That's why many people leave instructions in a will as to whether those accounts should be closed or overseen by another party.

Trusts and IRAs

An individual retirement account is a popular retirement-saving tool for adults in Georgia. Choosing a trust as an IRA beneficiary can yield several benefits. However, before an estate owner can designate a trust as the beneficiary to their IRA, they should be aware of the requirements for doing so.

For starters, the trust must be valid according to state law and should be irrevocable or drafted to become irrevocable after the death of the creator. A creator cannot designate entities other than other individuals as the trust's beneficiaries. For example, a favorite charity cannot be made a beneficiary of the trust to receive the IRA funds. Also, the trustee is required to submit to the IRA's custodian a certified list or trust document that names the beneficiaries no later than the end of October of the year after the passing of the IRA owner.

A trust is a must for those with kids

Individuals in Georgia may need more than a will after they have children. Without a trust, a child may be able to inherit property directly after turning 18. Generally speaking, younger people have a hard time making prudent financial decisions. It can be tempting to use a windfall to take vacations or make other extravagant purchases. Those who have substance abuse issues may be tempted to use their inheritance to further their habits.

With a trust, a parent has greater control over how an inheritance can be used. The money can be distributed in small chunks over time or kept in the trust as long as a child lives. Furthermore, someone in whom the parent is confident will make good decisions should manage the trust. Ideally, the trustee and the child will work together to create a plan for how an inheritance will be invested.

3 vital estate planning documents for people with chronic disease

Anyone in Georgia should create an estate plan, but people with chronic diseases or those approaching advanced age have an urgent need to document their wishes. A quarter of people ages 65 to 74 must grapple with the effects of chronic diseases. Half of the people age 85 or older experience cognitive impairment. People should strive to complete their estate planning documents, especially those necessary for medical care, while they are physically and mentally able to consider their decisions.

Since chronic diseases could, at some point, overwhelm people, they need to enable trusted loved ones to participate in medical care and decisions. A HIPPA release represents a good start. The form names an individual along with successors who can view another person's medical records. The release grants a designated person access to someone's personal health information. This access could be important to the delivery of care.

Pros and cons of going through probate

When you pass on, your property does not automatically transfer to those whom you named as beneficiaries. Unfortunately, estate planning is not as easy as that. Even if you have a thorough, updated will, it must first pass through probate before going into effect.

Probate is the process by which the court determines the validity of the will, approves or appoints the executor and ensures the proper administration of the estate. Whether you should avoid probate depends on your circumstances.

The importance of revisiting estate plans following a divorce

About half the marriages in Georgia and around the country end in divorce, which means that blended families are extremely common. Divorced spouses who remarry should revisit their estate plans regularly because failing to do so can have dire consequences. Disputes between heirs are often contentious, but they may be particularly bitter when children from multiple marriages are involved.

Failing to update an estate plan after a divorce can result in an ex-husband or wife inheriting assets that a testator may have preferred go to the person to whom he or she was married when he or she died. In addition to revising estate planning documents, individuals who divorce may wish to update the beneficiaries on insurance policies and retirement accounts. The passwords that provide access to digital assets should also be changed.

Estate planning mistakes can cause serious problems

There are a variety of mistakes that people in Georgia and throughout the country make when creating an estate plan. One such error is to not have an estate plan at all. Creating a will allows a person to determine where his or her assets go after passing on. In many cases, a spouse only receives property that was jointly owned or otherwise titled with joint ownership rights.

Beneficiary designations should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated as necessary. The designation will stand even if a will or trust says that an asset should go to another person. It is generally a good idea to review these designations and other parts of an estate plan after a major life event such as a divorce or a remarriage. The birth of a child may also be a good time to review an estate plan.

Why trusts are useful in an estate plan

When people in Georgia think about planning for the future, they may be concerned about how they can best ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes. They may also want to do everything they can to ensure reliable support for their loved ones. As a result, many people turn to trusts as part of the estate planning process. Trusts offer a greater level of flexibility, customization and control than other estate instruments. In addition, they do not need to go through the probate system, so they do not become public record, offering more privacy in the process.

People can create several different types of trusts depending on their reasons for creating the instrument. A trust essentially is a legal body created to hold property that originally belonged to the creator. It becomes the property of the trust when the trust is funded. The trust is to be managed by a trustee for the benefit of a named person. In some cases, people may opt for revocable trusts that can be cancelled while the creator is alive; others may create irrevocable trusts that cannot be changed. People often opt for irrevocable trusts in order to provide greater tax benefits or advantages when dealing with creditors.

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