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Understanding the basics of estate planning

The days and weeks following the passing of a loved one in Georgia can be difficult for those left behind. This is especially true when it comes to figuring out who gets certain cherished possessions, what happens with financial accounts and even funeral preferences. But with proper estate planning, all of these decisions can be made in advance and based entirely on what the estate owner had in mind. A common first step is to create a will. However, there are other aspects of estate planning that often go overlooked.

The estate administration and probate process can be streamlined or simplified with some additional planning. For instance, having beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, annuities and retirement accounts may allow the probate process, which is the reading of a will and settling of an estate, to be bypassed altogether so that assets can be distributed sooner. With some IRAs and annuities, it's possible for a beneficiary to only take the required minimum distribution to preserve the tax advantages sometimes associated with these assets.

More extensive estate planning can also include specific funeral details, which may eliminate the need for loved ones to make decisions about such things as burial preferences and whether donations should be made to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers. An addition to a will, referred to as a codicil, may minimize family feuds by allowing an individual to determine who gets certain physical assets. Decisions can even be made in advance about content stored digitally and various social media accounts.

Sorting through estate planning details is often easier with the assistance of a lawyer. An attorney can make recommendations about how to minimize the tax liabilities associated with some assets. This may involve setting up trusts.

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