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Duluth Georgia Estate Planning Legal Blog

The duties of an executor

Some people in Georgia who have been appointed executor of an estate or a person who is creating an estate plan might wonder what duties an executor is required to perform. First, the executor must locate the will and file it with the court. The executor also has to locate all of the assets belonging to the decedent. This may involve locating a safe deposit box and consulting financial institutions about accounts. Assets might include securities, real estate, personal effects and insurance policies.

These assets must be inventoried, and some might need to be appraised. Some may need to be sold. Any bills must be paid, but the executor also has the right to reject any claims that appear to be invalid. Income taxes must be filed and paid as well. Once all expenses are paid, the executor can distribute the assets to beneficiaries.

Amending a trust to make changes

Many people in Georgia may have created a trust as part of their estate planning process. However, after the trust was created, they may want to make changes to the document and the way that their assets are handled. They may wonder how they can best change a trust to ensure that their intentions are clear, even after they have passed away.

Most trusts that are used in estate planning are revocable and amendable, which means that they can be cancelled or changed. However, when making a change to a trust, it is often not sufficient to write on the trust document or simply initial changes. Making an amendment to the trust is a clear, accurate way to make the changes that the creator desires.

Dealing with philanthropy after tax law changes

People in Georgia may be wondering about the best way to handle their charitable giving through their estate planning after the changes to federal estate taxes implemented following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Historically, bequests to charities have been exempt from federal estate taxes, helping these philanthropic gifts to be even more appealing to donors whose heirs faced tax burdens on the remainder of their estate. As part of the changes to tax law, however, the individual exemption to estate taxes has doubled, from $5.49 million per person to $11.18 million.

Today, this means that 99.8 percent of Americans will leave behind estates that are not subject to federal taxation, meaning that estate taxes are far less likely to be a factor when making an estate plan that includes charitable giving. However, these gifts also reflect social values and priorities and are unlikely to suffer an overall decline following the changes.

Estate planning should be kept current

Estate planning can be a difficult task for many people in Georgia; as it involves dealing with complicated family issues and considering death, many people are happy to draw up the necessary documents and then file them away for the future, content that their family will be properly taken care of after their passing. However, due to changing laws as well as life changes, estate planning documents like wills and trusts can rapidly become outdated.

It can be particularly important to review and update estate planning documents, including life insurance plans, wills and trusts. When these documents go years without review, changes could happen in the meantime that impact how people want their estates to be distributed. Every person should have a will, a financial power of attorney and an advanced medical directive, and having those reviewed every 10 years by an attorney can help to ensure that they achieve the results that they desire.

Discernment is key when estate planning with adult children

Just as it is important to plan for retirement, it is possibly even more important that people in the Georgia area carefully plan for the manner in which their estates will be handled upon their death. While there is no question that provisions should be made for minor children to ensure that someone is appointed to administer the estate to take care of them, all too often adult children are entrusted with more than they are capable of handling responsibly.

While reaching the age of adulthood often means that a person has become financially responsible, it is not always true for everyone. In fact, many mature, intelligent people lack money-management skills. Fortunately, such persons usually entrust their assets to money managers or financial advisors. Unfortunately, others do not.

Common errors in creating a living trust

A living trust can be a powerful tool in estate planning for people in Georgia. With this legal tool, assets skip probate and go directly to beneficiaries. Unlike a will, a living trust is also private. Furthermore, it does not require the creator to give up ownership of assets. The creator simply acts as trustee. If the creator becomes incapacitated, a successor trustee can manage the assets on the creator's behalf.

However, there are some common errors that people make that mean their beneficiaries never get the full benefit of the living trust. One of the most common is failing to fund the trust. Creating a trust is more complex than simply drawing up the document. It is necessary to change the ownership of assets so that they belong to the trust.

Estate planning can include digital property

For business owners in Georgia and across the United States, estate planning is particularly important. While wills and trusts are frequently considered in people's personal lives, in many cases, businesses do not receive the estate planning attention that they need to thrive after a principal's passing. Business estate planning can help to reduce estate taxes, deal with a sole proprietorship and transfer a business through a buy-sell agreement.

Digital assets are one of the more complex areas of estate planning for both personal and business contexts. While the law is clear in regard to physical property and paper documents, digital technology can seem less clear and more confusing. For example, only 39 states have passed a law that allows people to specify a designated executor to access their email and other social media profiles. Without such a law, the company holding the data can determine who can access a person's account after death.

The importance of making estate plans now

It is too easy to dismiss the urgency of estate planning when you feel fine. However, estate planning is not just about your future; it is also about your financial and physical health. It does not matter if you are close to retiring in the Duluth area or have several more years to go, it is important for you to create and update your estate plans to reflect the state of your current wishes. 

Here is why it is better for you to make estate plans now and update them when major life events happen. 

About charitable trusts

Georgia residents who want to leave part of their estate to their favorite charities may consider using a charitable trust. One of the many advantages of doing so is that it can provide tax benefits for the donors. As the name implies, charitable trusts are created for a charitable purpose. According to Uniform Trust Code Section 405, the charitable purpose may be related to the propagation of religion or education, relieving poverty, encouraging health, fulfilling municipal or governmental purposes or any task geared toward benefiting the community.

Three tips to help blended families avoid estate disputes

Estate disputes are not uncommon, particularly amongst blended families. Studies have found that families composed of a step parent and children from a previous marriage are more likely to face a dispute than a traditional, nuclear family.

Even those who wish to provide unequal bequests can take proactive steps to avoid a potential dispute.

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6340 Sugarloaf Parkway
Suite 200
Duluth, GA 30097

Phone: 678-926-9284
Fax: 770-932-5195
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2550 Hamilton Mill Rd.
Buford, GA 30519

Phone: 678-926-9284
Fax: 770-932-5195
Map & Directions