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Griffin Georgia Law Blog

Estate plans and incapacity

One of the situations Georgia residents should plan for when creating an estate plan is the event that they might become incapacitated. Should they be unable to make important decisions by themselves, it is important that the necessary documents are in place to ensure that their preferences regarding their finances and health will be honored.

Preparation is important when planning for the unexpected. People should begin by consolidating their assets, which includes closing any redundant accounts. Formalization of the actions that one takes regarding their assets is also critical to making sure that executors or beneficiaries adhere to how a loved one wants their assets to be handled. If there are no formal, legal documents in place, the decisions regarding an incapacitated person's welfare and assets will be left in the hands of the court.

Guardianship or power of attorney?

It happens to most families. At some point, it becomes clear that an elderly parent or relative needs help looking after their affairs. Perhaps it’s the onset of dementia or mental decline. Hopefully it’s not because of a scam or elder abuse.

Whatever the circumstances, you know that it’s time for someone to step in and take charge. Before you do that, though, you need to make sure you are on sound legal footing.

Understanding the role of the executor

Georgia residents who have been asked to be an estate's personal representative may be wary of accepting the role. However, it is generally not as scary or overwhelming as it sounds, and it will only take a limited amount of a person's time to carry out their duties. As a general rule, a personal representative is responsible for inventorying assets, paying creditors and the government and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Those who serve as executors will need to make time to talk with the estate's attorney and attend court hearings. It could also be necessary to take time to go to the bank or be present at a real estate closing. Individuals who are worried about being held liable for making a mistake while settling an estate should understand that judges expect minor errors to be made.

Why having an estate plan is important

Georgia residents might hesitate to create an estate plan because they do not want to think about mortality. However, an estate plan serves two important purposes. In addition to detailing how people want their assets distributed, it also makes preparations in case they become incapacitated and cannot manage their financial or health care issues.

Both of these can be accomplished by naming a trusted person as agent under a power of attorney. A living will can address the type of life-saving procedures a person wishes to have administered or withheld.

How family infighting impacts estate planning

Georgia residents and others should be prepared for family drama when it comes to estate planning. According to a TD Wealth survey of estate planning professionals, 44 percent said that family infighting was the biggest estate planning threat in 2018. The conflicts between family members are often the result of the blended families that are formed through having children from previous marriages.

Individuals who own a family business can experience estate planning tension between those who work for the business and those who don't. This has led to wealth management professionals spending more time getting to know a family's overall goals and possible sources of tension. From there, a plan is created that will help to meet those goals while also avoiding a family's pain points.

What to expect when buying a home this spring

Georgia residents who are looking to buy a home in the near future may find have to face more expenses. This is because home values are increasing while interest rates on mortgages are also going up. Mortgage rates on a 30-year loan with a fixed rate went up to 4.46 percent in March. This is the highest level since January 2014. Furthermore, the average mortgage payment for a home at the national median price point is up 13 percent from a year ago.

In some markets, the price of a home has gone up much faster than the national average. Median mortgage payments in Seattle have increased $449 from a year ago while payments in cities like St. Louis are only up $100 to $200 a month.

A simple will is often enough

It is only natural for people to not want to think about their own demise. Life is to be lived, after all, and we all want the most out of it. But not having the most basic estate plan in place is simply passing on a big headache to your children or other heirs. You can save them a tremendous amount of time and money simply by taking a little action now.

It is also very likely that it will not take much of your time or money, either. A simple will, and perhaps a simple trust, is often enough for most people. It has to be done properly to be rock solid, but it is more than worth it for your family.

When estate plans in Georgia should be reviewed or modified

Many people in Georgia draft estate plans and fail to review them for years. Individuals who have estate plans should review them regularly and make changes as needed after major life events. There are several other factors that should also prompt a review of an estate plan.

If people do not have all of the components drafted and in place, they should make certain to draft the additional documents to include in their estate plan. In addition to wills or trusts, people should also have advance directives and financial powers of attorney in place. If people have not updated their beneficiaries or executors since they first drafted their estate plans, they should also review them. There may be new beneficiaries to add. If the executors have passed away, new ones will need to be named.

Trusts can also be a good plan for adult beneficiaries

When people in Georgia want to ensure that their properties and possessions will be distributed properly after death, estate planning is critical. Developing the necessary documents, including a will and relevant trusts, is important for protecting the financial future of one's heirs. There are a number of concerns to keep in mind while working through this process in order to ensure the best and most efficient outcomes.

During an estate planning process, different structures are often set up for leaving assets to minor children and adult children. For minors, it is routine to set up trusts in order to ensure that their best interests are protected until they become of age. However, there can also be important benefits of creating trusts for assets that are being left to adult children as well. Many adults do not have extensive financial knowledge and awareness, and setting up a trust can be an excellent way to ensure that the funds are professionally managed.

Probate court is not always unwanted

Georgia residents dealing with estate planning concerns may find the probate process intimidating. Probate court is much maligned as the source of wasted assets and excessive fees caused by family infighting over an inheritance, but the process can have a place in strategic estate planning. The secret to an efficient trip to probate court is careful planning and forethought.

When someone inherits an asset through a will, it must go through probate. Each state has its own process, and sometimes the procedures even vary from one county to the next. When assets, such as real estate, are owned in more than one state, proper estate plans should consider the laws in every jurisdiction involved. It is possible to avoid probate but not always desired. On occasion, the meticulous oversight of a judge and court-appointed administrators is preferred by individuals who are wary of privately appointed trustees or asset managers. Some states have put in place more streamlined processes dedicated to smaller estates, but larger ones are still generally subject to the typical expenses and delays often associated with the usual grievances about probate court.

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