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Duluth Georgia Estate Planning Legal Blog

Mistakes executors should avoid

Georgia residents who have been named estate executors have a lot of work ahead of them. For instance, they must file income tax returns, get in touch with beneficiaries and take steps to secure assets. It is important to point out that executors have a fiduciary responsibility toward the beneficiaries. Therefore, they should not be ignored or otherwise kept in the dark at any point while the estate is being settled.

If the needs of beneficiaries are not met, it may be possible for them to remove an executor. As a general rule, it is important to defer to the language in a will or trust as much as possible. While being an executor does grant an individual certain power over an estate, it is best to use that power wisely. Those who are unable or unwilling to make decisions or take action in a timely manner should refuse the appointment when it is first offered.

Important personal property to include in estate plans

When it comes to estate planning, many people think about who should receive bigger assets like real estate, stocks and business interests. Personal property is often forgotten when dividing an estate. However, residents in Georgia and other states who own art, antiques and collectibles may need to make sure these items are included in an estate plan.

Personal property like jewelry, rare coins, firearms and more may need special consideration when distributing an estate. These items can be harder to keep track of because there may not be an updated, easily identifiable record of these belongings.

There are many trusts to choose from

Georgia residents who are interested in creating a strong estate plan may want to consider using a trust. Parents who have children with disabilities could benefit from using a special needs trust while individuals who want to help a favored cause could create a charitable trust. A charitable trust allows an individual to benefit from an asset while alive and then transfer the remaining value of that asset to a designated organization.

Special needs trusts can be ideal because they can allow a child to obtain government benefits and receive assets from the trust. However, it is important that the trust is structured properly to ensure that this happens. A living trust is among the most common types of trusts that a person can create. The person who creates it can be both a beneficiary and a trustee.

Determining the gross value of an estate

Georgia residents who are thinking about buying a property overseas for either investment or retirement purposes should be aware that foreign real estate holdings are considered part of an individual's gross estate by the government. This means that the value of these holdings is included when federal estate taxes are calculated. Gross estates are made up of all of the assets owned at the time of death, and they may even include life insurance proceeds that have been paid to other beneficiaries.

Determining the value of the gross estate is an important step in estate planning. Once these calculations have been completed, estate taxes may become a factor even for individuals who do not consider themselves wealthy. For the 2018 tax year, estate tax exemptions, which are linked to increases in the cost of living, are $11,180,000 for an individual and $22,360,000 for a married couple. They are scheduled to rise to $11,400,000 for an individual and $22,800,000 for a married couple in 2019.

Georgia estate planning benefits from trust decanting

As part of estate planning, an individual (called the grantor) may set up an irrevocable trust to grant tax advantages to his or her estate, and she or he may also confer other desirable benefits to beneficiaries named in the irrevocable trust.

There was a time when the termination or change in trust terms required very specific conditions. Upon the grantors' death, the irrevocable trust becomes non-modifiable unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise. Even then, irrevocable trust changes require expensive and protracted court action.

Designing trusts an heir with substance abuse problems

Estate planning in Georgia can be a complicated process, especially if some beneficiaries have special needs. For heirs with developmental disabilities, there are specific trusts with appropriate wording that can prove useful. If the beneficiary has a problem with substance abuse, this may present a more nuanced situation that can't be solved with a traditional disability trust.

Families creating trusts for members with substance abuse problems have their work cut out for them. However, there are options available. First of all, they need to identify the purpose of the trust and state it clearly. For example, the trust could have nothing to do with the beneficiary's recovery. Alternatively, the trust could have an active role in helping the beneficiary get over their addiction by covering the costs of rehab and other services.

Using revocable trusts in an estate plan

There are many elements of a well-developed estate plan, such as a will, medical directives and powers of attorney. However, Georgia residents should also strongly consider including a revocable trust.

A revocable trust is one that exists indefinitely after the death of the grantor, ensuring that the grantor's wishes regarding the handling of the assets in the trust are managed as stipulated. When this type of trust is used, it should address who should be the successor trustees after the death of the grantor if the grantor also served as the trustee. After the death of the grantor, the trust becomes irrevocable. The terms contained in the trust regarding the distribution of assets remain effective for any future beneficiaries.

Important estate plan documents to have

Estate planning can be relatively simple or complex depending on a person's needs. At a minimum, Georgia residents will want to have a will. Without a will, the state will determine who gets guardianship of a child or who gets a decedent's assets. This may result in people from who the decedent was estranged receiving all or a portion of the estate.

A living will can come in handy in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated. It allows the named agent to dictate how long to keep the person on life support or what types of treatments to administer. Having these instructions in writing can make it easier for family members or others to make decisions without wondering if they are making the right choice.

Wills are just as important for those without children

Many Georgia residents who don't have children may believe that they don't need a last will and testament. However, estate planning experts say just the opposite. In fact, a will might be even more important for an estate owner without obvious heirs.

When a person dies without a will or trust, property is disposed by the state laws of intestate succession. Generally, these laws place the priorities of distribution to blood relatives in various "classes" of relation. For example, parents will receive the property only if no spouse or lineal descendants exist.

Identifying interested parties for probate litigation

In some cases, after the death of a person in Georgia, there could be a legal challenge to the person's will. This is known as probate litigation. However, as part of that litigation, it might be necessary to determine who is an "interested party." This includes the people named in the last will and testament, but others may be interested parties as well.

All surviving family members are considered interested parties. This is the case whether or not they are included in the will. Furthermore, everyone named in the will is also an interested party. If there is a previous will, people named in that will might also be considered interested parties.

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