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Duluth Georgia Estate Planning Legal Blog

Appointing the right executor to protect your estate

An effective estate plan can go a long way to protecting your assets and ensuring they go to the appropriate beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes. However, like many other plans, even the best estate plan is often only as good as the person implementing it.

While the probate court oversees the process generally, your will's executor will be the one taking action on the ground. Whether the distribution goes smoothly or winds up in a snarl of litigation can have a great deal to do with the way the executor goes about performing his or her administrative duties.

About dynasty trusts

Georgia residents who have significant wealth may want to consider using a dynasty trust as part of their estate plan. A dynasty trust is unlike the majority of other types of trusts in that it does not expire. It can be opened in a select number of states.

Dynasty trusts are experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to the increased amounts money that can be left to heirs without being assessed gift and estate taxes. However, because the increased thresholds are valid only until 2025, there is a limited window to pass on the additional wealth to heirs free of tax and have the necessary legal devices in place to ensure that the inheritances are managed according to the wishes of the grantor.

Steps to take when parents didn't leave a will

Despite all the information available to them, some seniors neglect to write a will. It could be because they expect to live a lot longer or because they are so busy that it slips their minds. Whatever their reason for not putting their wishes in writing, there are some things a surviving child in Georgia could do to make sure their parent's assets are passed to the appropriate heirs.

The first thing an adult child should do is search for a will. Parents may not share everything with their children, so even though they said they didn't have a will, they could have an old one they forgot about. Survivors should search their parent's home and office. It's possible they've spoken to an attorney or financial adviser and have a business card tucked inside a drawer. If there is definitely no will, a survivor should start gathering financial documents because they'll need them for probate.

Reasons why it is important to have an estate plan

Some Georgians either think that they do not need estate plans or put off writing one until it is too late. It is important for people to have estate plans in place so that they have control over how their assets are passed and can minimize various taxes and fees.

If people who have accumulated substantial assets pass away without an estate plan, their families may be forced to pay estate taxes to the federal government and probate fees. Having an estate plan can help protect people and their families from gift, estate taxes and probate fees. Even people who do not have substantial assets can benefit from having estate plans in place.

How to decide who plans the funeral

While no one wants to think about their mortality, it is worthwhile for Georgia residents to know their options when it comes to planning their funerals. For instance, it is acceptable to put funeral instructions in a will. It is also possible to use a planning declaration to assign someone to oversee the event. Typically, the person who creates the document is allowed to include as many or as few details as he or she wants.

Putting someone in charge of the funeral using this method increases the odds that a person's final wishes are respected. In many cases, family members don't find the will until after a funeral has taken place. It is also possible that they won't even start looking for the will until after a memorial service takes place. In the event that a will is found prior to the funeral, its language is legally binding.

The reasons some estate plans fail

According to a report from BMO Wealth Management, 40 percent of parents never have an estate planning conversation with their children, and fewer than one-third of adults reported knowing any details of their parents' estate plan. Only a quarter of adults said their spouses knew where they kept estate planning documents, and 40 percent of people who had lost their parents said they found the estate plan to be unfair. However, there are steps Georgia residents can take to better prepare family members.

When estate plans fail, it is often because family members do not have adequate emotional or financial preparation. It can be difficult for people to begin learning about managing assets only after a parent's death. To avoid this, people should have regular discussions with their family members about their plan and the rationale behind it. This may also reduce the likelihood of disputes over the estate.

The advantages of a corporate trustee

People in Georgia might want to use a trust in an estate plan for a number of reasons. A trust can be used to minimize taxes on assets. With a trust, a grantor can also place conditions on how assets will be distributed. This may include specifying whether distributions will take place over time or tying them to specific conditions such as milestones in the beneficiary's life. The grantor may also use the trust to state what its purpose is.

However, there is one common error people make with trusts, and that is in appointing the right trustee. While choosing a friend or family member may seem like a good idea since that person would be familiar with a grantor's wishes and the family situation, a complex trust may simply be too much for this person to handle. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to invest and manage the assets responsibly, but this could require a level of financial and legal knowledge the person lacks.

Using an estate plan to pass values on to loved ones

Georgia residents who are creating an estate plan might wonder how they can use the plan to reinforce the values about money that they want to pass down to their children. This may be part of a lifelong process to impress upon family members that what can be done with money, including helping one another and the community, is more important than the money itself.

One way to do this may be by leaving a portion of the estate to charity. This could be a large organization with any number of focuses or a smaller community organization. When planning what to leave for beneficiaries, a person may want to consider their needs. Children do not all have to be treated equally if they have different resources and life situations. For example, a person may leave more money to a child who works a lower-paying job than one who has a higher salary because that child may otherwise struggle more for financial security.

How the Cy Pres doctrine affects charitable trusts

Some people in Georgia who are creating an estate plan might wonder how a charitable trust differs from other types of trusts. For example, unlike a regular trust, a charitable trust does not have to name a beneficiary since the general public is supposed to benefit from the trust.

There is a rule against a trust existing in perpetuity, but this does not apply to charitable trusts. The idea behind the rule is to prevent the indefinite restriction of the use of a piece of property, but there is an exception for charitable uses.

Protect your parents from financial abuse with estate plans

Your parents have always handled their own financial affairs, but as they age, you may worry that they could fall prey to some of the schemes con artists use to swindle the elderly out of their life's savings. This is not an irrational fear. Next Avenue notes that in the 65+ age group, one in five has become a victim of fraud. The average amount stolen, one study reports, is $30,000, but one in 10 lose $100,000 or more.

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Buford, GA 30519

Phone: 678-926-9284
Fax: 770-932-5195
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