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The importance of wills and other estate planning documents

Everyone is likely aware of their mortality. However, many people in Georgia and across the country put off estate planning for another day for a variety of different reasons. Regardless of the reasons, the creation of wills and other estate planning documents can significantly reduce the burden that surviving family members experience upon the passing of a loved one.

The cases involving several celebrities illustrate many of the pitfalls associated with not having a will or trust or having a plan that is out of date. For example, when James Gandolfini passed away, he left behind an estate valued at approximately $70 million. However, some reports indicate that a large portion of the estate went to taxes. Others, such as Anna Nicole Smith and Philip Seymour Hoffman, named their oldest children in their wills, excluding younger children.

There are several important documents that could help reduce tension felt by surviving family members following the death of a loved one. A will describes how assets are to be divided while other documents, such as a durable power of attorney, designate someone to make financial decisions for the person in the event of incapacitation. In addition to creating such documents, updating them periodically -- such as following the birth of a child, for example -- can help ensure that all intended beneficiaries are included.

Although wills and the estate planning process in general have many benefits, a 2014 survey reveals that a large majority of Americans have not gone through the process. Creating detailed and clear plans can ultimately help grieving loved ones better understand a deceased or incapacitated family member's wishes. An attorney can help people in Georgia create plans that are clear, enforceable and less susceptible to a successful challenge.

Source: nj.com, "Estate planning is important", Eleanore Szymanski, May 28, 2017

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