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Duluth Georgia Estate Planning Legal Blog

Life events call for an estate plan review

Georgia residents have only fulfilled half of their estate planning responsibilities by drafting a will or other documents. Once these documents are created, it is vital for individuals to review them on a regular basis. For instance, when a person moves to another state, he or she could be bound by different probate laws. It is also possible that a spouse may be entitled to a greater share of assets in that new state.

An estate plan should be reviewed if a person incurs a liability or increases his or her wealth substantially. Changes to the plan will likely need to be made if a person acquires large assets or significant amounts of debt. A plan may also need to change if an individual has a child or is welcoming a grandchild into the family. Edits to an existing plan can make it easier to provide for that child's needs.

The characteristics of a quality executor

The executor of an estate is the person chosen to represent the deceased individual through the probate process. Ideally, the party chosen to serve in this role will be responsible and trustworthy. This means that he or she will be responsive to the needs of other parties. Accountants, attorneys or banks can serve as an executor in addition to family members and friends.

It is generally a good idea to name someone who is younger than the testator. This is important because a will could be many years or decades old when a person passes. However, there is no legal requirement to take such a step. Furthermore, there is no requirement that an executor lives in the same town or state as the person creating the will. If necessary, an executor can hire other parties to supervise the transfer or liquidation of assets.

How to organize an estate plan

Georgia fans of comics creator Stan Lee may be aware that near the end of his life, there was some controversy around his fortune and in his relationships with others. Lee said that $1.4 million was stolen from his bank accounts, in part to buy a condo. At one point, he made several accusations against his daughter in a notarized document that he later took back. He has also worked with several attorneys and business managers.

One thing people need to think about when they are creating an estate plan is how to design it to protect themselves if they become incapacitated. This includes making sure that the plan has the necessary components to allow the right people to take over as well as understanding what would trigger a declaration of incapacity. As people get older, they may be more vulnerable to outside influences. However, in other situations, family members may perceive that this is happening when it is not.

Conflicts with trustees

Georgia residents who are beneficiaries of trusts may have legal recourse if the trustee controlling fund access is uncooperative. It is important that beneficiaries are aware of their rights and of what steps to take if they are encountering difficulties with a trustee.

Beneficiaries are entitled to receive a copy of the trust. Although a trustee may limit the information they provide regarding the provisions that apply to a beneficiary, the beneficiary is still permitted to obtain a copy of the trust document. If a trustee will not provide a beneficiary with a copy of the trust, there are legal options the beneficiary can pursue.

How silent trusts can help people plan

People in Georgia who are thinking about their future often are concerned with how best they can leave a legacy to their children or other loved ones. Many people opt to create trusts, as they allow property to pass outside of the probate system and can also provide significant tax benefits over the years. However, some worry that if their children know from an early age that a substantial trust fund will be waiting for them, they will be less motivated to achieve academically and in their careers.

When a trust is created, the trustee has a duty to notify the beneficiary about the trust and its administration, even if the beneficiary will only receive the funds at a future date. Many people want the estate planning and tax benefits that come with early creation of trust funds, but worry about the potential of negative social and familial effects. This is one reason why many people opt to create silent trusts. When someone creates a silent trust, he or she explicitly waives the duty of the trustee to inform the beneficiaries. Typically, the silent period is set to last for a fixed number of years or until the beneficiary reaches a certain age, usually 25.

Planning for educational gifts from an estate

Many estate owners in Georgia want to be able to support the education of children, grandchildren or future generations with their assets. When preparing for the future, there are a few different ways to include educational bequests as part of an estate plan. Trusts can provide different flexible options as well as the opportunity to create certain conditions for beneficiaries to access the funds.

One popular kind of trust is called a pot trust. It has this name because it consists of one "pot" of funds, and each of a group of beneficiaries can request money from it. This can be a simple, effective option, but creators may want to place terms and conditions in order to ensure that each beneficiary has enough money to support their education. Many trusts allow for unequal distributions among beneficiaries. At one level, this can be positive; both students who choose more and less expensive universities can be accommodated. However, people may want to avoid a situation in which younger grandchildren receive no funds or only minimal bequests because older beneficiaries have already depleted the funds.

Reasons a trust might need to be changed

People in Georgia who have trusts as part of their estate plan may want to periodically review those trusts to make sure they still fulfill their intended purpose. There are several reasons a trust may no longer work for an individual. One is that the trust was never created property in the first place. This can happen if an attorney does not understand a family's wishes and needs.

Another reason could be that the trust is written a way that leaves its intention unclear. In other circumstances, the trust might have been fine as originally written, but circumstances may have changed to make it no longer useful. It is also possible that the laws have changed so that the trust's original purpose can be better fulfilled using a different strategy or vehicle.

How to incorporate charity into an estate plan

Those who live in Georgia or any other state may want to give money to charity while alive or after passing. Charitable giving can be included in an estate plan, and the first step in doing so is to find a cause worth donating to. Individuals might want to consider giving to charities that they have donated to in the past when creating their plan. It could also be worthwhile to consider which issues are relevant to future generations.

The next step is to determine whether to donate cash or other assets such as real estate. As a general rule, it is best to donate assets that have appreciated in value since they were acquired. This may have the greatest impact on a potential income or estate tax bill.

Dealing with timeshares in an estate plan

Georgia residents purchase timeshares because they allow them to save money while enjoying designated weeks at their favorite resorts, but selling or disposing of them can be challenging. This is important because most timeshare agreements include what is known as an in perpetuity clause that requires owners to keep paying fees and covering monthly maintenance charges until they die. These fees can be as high as $3,000 per year at luxury resorts, and timeshare owners may also be responsible for paying the costs of correcting code violations and making repairs to the property in question.

Timeshare purchases were once treated in much the same as other types of real estate transactions, but they are now generally sold on a right to use basis and no deed changes hands. This is also how spas and gyms sell memberships. Timeshare purchase agreements spell out who is responsible for paying fees and maintenance charges, and those considering such a purchase would be wise to read them carefully before signing. This is because timeshare salespeople sometimes encourage their clients to add their children to the document. While this could make it easier for children or other relatives to use the property, it could also leave them legally responsible for meeting ongoing monthly costs.

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