Georgia residents who have been named estate executors have a lot of work ahead of them. For instance, they must file income tax returns, get in touch with beneficiaries and take steps to secure assets. It is important to point out that executors have a fiduciary responsibility toward the beneficiaries. Therefore, they should not be ignored or otherwise kept in the dark at any point while the estate is being settled.
When it comes to estate planning, many people think about who should receive bigger assets like real estate, stocks and business interests. Personal property is often forgotten when dividing an estate. However, residents in Georgia and other states who own art, antiques and collectibles may need to make sure these items are included in an estate plan.
Estate planning can be relatively simple or complex depending on a person's needs. At a minimum, Georgia residents will want to have a will. Without a will, the state will determine who gets guardianship of a child or who gets a decedent's assets. This may result in people from who the decedent was estranged receiving all or a portion of the estate.
In some cases, after the death of a person in Georgia, there could be a legal challenge to the person's will. This is known as probate litigation. However, as part of that litigation, it might be necessary to determine who is an "interested party." This includes the people named in the last will and testament, but others may be interested parties as well.
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.
People with large estates in Georgia might want to investigate the potential usefulness of life insurance within an estate planning strategy. A life insurance policy could provide cash soon after the benefactor's passing to assist heirs with near-term estate administration expenses. Even heirs of a wealthy individual might not have the resources on hand to meet immediate expenses like funeral costs, probate court fees and estate taxes. Life insurance relieves heirs of this burden and prevents the rushed sale of valuable assets at a discount.
Some people in Georgia may have known couples who were married for a long time and died within days or weeks of one another. Sometimes called "broken-heart syndrome," this can actually cause problems for their estate plans if they have not prepared for the possibility.
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.
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.
Georgia fans of renowned singer Aretha Franklin may be giving new thought to estate planning after the news that the 76-year-old star passed away without a will. She died in August after a long fight against pancreatic cancer, but it was discovered that she had never made a will. Her niece has filed with the probate court to be recognized as executor of the estate, and her four sons have also registered as interested parties before the court. However, because she did not have a will or other estate documents in place, her estate could take longer to process and come at a higher cost to her heirs.