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Avoiding probate and family conflicts

Some estate planners in Georgia might be concerned about the probate process. In general, all estates must pass through probate unless there are provisions in place to transfer assets to heirs in other ways.

For example, heirs could be made joint owners on accounts and other assets, but the disadvantage is that this means the heir is the joint owner while the person is still alive. Another option is to use transfer-on-death provisions. However, many experts say the best approach to avoiding probate is to place all assets in a revocable trust.

Many experts agree that avoiding probate does not necessarily have to be the aim of an estate plan. Probate can be a fairly straightforward and efficient process. The real problem arises if the estate owner does not have a will. This requires a court to appoint an executor to manage the estate. Assets are then distributed according to state law.

In many cases, it's a family conflict that leads to estate plan challenges. While challenges are necessary in some cases, more often, it is about old family arguments resurfacing. A no-contest clause in the will specifies that anyone who challenges it will get nothing. A better option might be a letter or other document explaining to family members the choices in the estate plan.

Appointing the right executor may also be an important step. The executor does not need to be an expert in legal and financial matters. If necessary, an executor can hire an attorney or other professionals for assistance with estate administration and probate. However, the executor should be someone who can manage family conflict. A will creator might also want to consider appointing someone to make medical decisions and an agent to handle finances in case incapacitation becomes an issue.

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