Scriber Law Group, LLC.

What Exactly is Estate Planning in Georgia?

We think of estate planning as a three-step process. The first part of estate planning is organization of the client’s wealth and assets. This means finding and reviewing the client’s accounts and property as well as learning about the client’s goals and needs. The second step is putting together a plan to strategy to protect the client’s assets while they are still alive. The final next step of estate planning is to plan for what will happen to those assets upon the client’s death. At this point, the question then becomes to whom do they want to have those assets given to and also to see how it can minimize tax issues, estate fighting issues and even procedural probate issues.

At the same time, we also deal with issues that are more important than property, like figuring out who is going to get custody of children under the age of eighteen if both parents die. If someone has pets, who is going to take care of them? Additionally, we help the client provide instructions to their loved ones about what to do with their body.

As part of this process, we need deal with insurance policies, retirement accounts, annuities, et cetera and make sure those support the client’s goals. Estate plans can dramatically vary in complexity. One person might need just a Last Will and Testament as well as a few other documents. Other people might need to design a multigenerational trust, put together a plan to deal with estate taxation, or explore aggressive asset protection strategies, all of which can be significantly more complex. Estate planning is the term that is broad enough to encompass all of this.

Is Estate Planning Only for The Filthy Rich?

In short, no. People often get intimidated by the words “estate planning.” It sounds like something maybe only the wealthiest people need to do. For example, Warren Buffett might have an estate plan, but the rest of just need to get a Will.

That is certainly not the case. I will pose a better question. Who needs an estate plan? Everyone who has someone they care about.

One thing that people do not really understand is that if you do not plan your estate, your state government has an estate plan already laid out for you. It might not be something you like, and it is definitely something that is going to involve a court intervening in your family’s affairs.

If something were to happen to a spouse or a parent and they had not planned out their estate ahead of time, it can lead to a lot of stress and potential legal issues for the family.

Do People Get Surprised at The Assets They Have When They Do Estate Planning?

Yes and no. For big assets, people are not surprised. Most of us are aware of the property we own like the house, a car, or bank account. That is great, but a lot of times, when people start digging deeper, there are a lot of aspects of their estate plan they had not given much thought to. They have not necessarily even looked at their retirement accounts. They might think of auto-draft or paychecks every month, but they have not added that into their estate plan idea or they might not have looked at their insurance policy either.

Scriber Law Group, LLC.

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They might not have looked at other things that are in the pipeline that we can point out for them. Additionally, a lot of times, people have not really thought about the more basic parts of the estate plan, say, like, who is going to be the guardian of their young children if both parents die? What will happen to their pets? Many people just assume that the pet will be taken care of without actually making a plan for it. Most people have a good idea of the big picture, but not a good view of the details.

Why Do People Need an Estate Plan?

People need an estate plan to take control of their assets. Using an estate plan, you can potentially protect assets from lifetime dangers such as divorce, losing a lawsuit and having a judgment imposed, and of having an incapacity issue where you are not able to take care of yourself. Then, you can make sure that the right people get your assets upon your death. Additionally, you can ensure that if something were to happen to you and then your assets were left to someone under the age of eighteen who could not manage those assets, you could pick the person to manage them, instead of the court.

You can have your estate setup so that if you die, and then your spouse then gets remarried, that you can make sure that your spouse’s second spouse does not get the bulk of your estate upon your spouse’s death, but rather your children or other family members. Self-employed people can prepare for business transitions, such as sale of the company or retirement. You can prepare for lots of different types of issues that are not going to be handled by default under most state laws. By doing this you can avoid situations that will eventually lead to, at a minimum, bad feelings, but potentially can turn into an expensive and messy court dispute.

Under Georgia law, if there is not a will and there is no other catch-all that was used like a trust, then the estate gets divided in a very clean way. All the assets that are in the name of the deceased person get split into shares. If a person was married and has no children, then that spouse would get most of it. If someone is married with children, the spouse would get one-third and the children will divide the remainder. If no blood relative was found at that point, the court would give the estate the parents, then their siblings, and if neither, would keep looking for more distant relations until they found a relative who could inherit.

For a lot of my clients who might not have a close relationship with their family, it is a big deal that a relative who they not like can receive their assets. Proper estate planning can prevent this.

Additionally, Georgia law has a provision that no other state has; it is called year’s support. Under year’s support, a surviving spouse or child under the age of 18 can make a claim for one year of support. There is no statutory definition for how much that support can be. For example, a surviving partner can make a claim for the entirety of the estate. Then it would be up to the other heirs to force the court to recalculate that amount down to a more reasonable share. All of these disputes can be avoided with a good estate plan. By working with your estate planning attorney to properly title assets, move them into a trust, or include them in a comprehensive Last Will and Testament, you are off to a very good start in the estate planning arena.

For more information on Estate Planning in Georgia, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (404) 939-7562 today.

Scriber Law Group, LLC.

Get your questions answered - Call for a complimentary strategy session at (404) 939-7562.