Trustworthy Counsel In Wills, Trust and Estate Planning
Having represented clients in both Georgia and U.S. Supreme Courts, our lawyers have experience handling an array of legal matters for clients throughout the state, including Georgia estate planning and probate. We work tirelessly to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation when it comes to all matters related to Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning.
For more than two decades, our Atlanta-based family law firm has been helping Georgia families create comprehensive estate plans customized to their unique needs and complex assets. We’ve been able to grow and now serve clients directly in our Marietta Office, Lawrenceville Office, Cumming Office, Atlanta Office, Savannah Office, and Columbus Office.
Georgia and Atlanta Estate Planning
With so many types of wills and trusts available, our attorneys will work closely with you to determine which tools will help you effectively achieve your estate planning goals. Some common goals we help our clients achieve include:
- Protecting assets and property
- Designating beneficiaries
- Making known medical wishes
- Taking account of tax consequences involved in property transfer
- Providing for a disabled child or vulnerable adult
- Avoiding probate
Over the years, our attorneys have helped thousands of families create and appoint varying wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. We can help you understand estate planning strategies and which ones are most beneficial for your family. If your family is in transition, we can help you figure out wealth management to protect your assets and your property to provide for children, stepchildren, grandparents, grandchildren, etc.
Why is it important to establish an estate plan?
When it comes to estate planning, the first step to think about is simply acknowledging the necessity of organizing your estate and devising a comprehensive strategy.
This awareness is important. A responsible estate plan entails more than just a will; it involves a thoughtful consideration of what it should encompass and the reasons behind its necessity.
When you’re starting out with your estate plan, you might have a clear understanding of your assets and liabilities. You may even be keenly aware of what accounts and investments you have and where. Even if you don’t, crafting an estate plan helps you have that clear understanding.
The first order of business is to compile an inventory of everything with financial value, which may include items such as bank account deposits, property holdings, and life insurance policies.
It’s essential to safeguard this information and grant access to it only to trusted individuals. These key contacts will play a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth estate transition when the time comes. Sharing this critical information with them is a responsible step in the estate planning process.
The compiled list of assets serves as a cornerstone for the family, providing a clear overview of where assets are situated and enabling them to address potential tax concerns that could arise when different jurisdictions come into play. By taking these initial steps, you can better prepare themselves and their loved ones for the complexities of estate planning.
What does my estate include?
An estate asset refers to any property that was under the ownership of the deceased at the time of their passing. This encompasses a wide range of assets, including bank accounts, investments, retirement savings, real estate, artwork, jewelry, businesses, corporations, household furnishings, vehicles, electronic devices, and outstanding debts owed to the deceased. It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and exceptions do exist.
For instance, a person may legally possess property as a trustee, managing it for the benefit of someone else. In such cases, when the trustee passes away, the trust property is not considered part of the estate assets.
Joint ownership is another scenario to consider. In some instances, when a person jointly owns property with another person, their ownership rights may cease upon their demise, leaving the surviving co-owner as the sole proprietor. However, this isn’t always the case, and legal counsel can provide guidance on the nuances of joint ownership.
Certain accounts, such as retirement savings accounts and tax-free savings accounts, may have designated beneficiaries. When a living designated beneficiary exists, the property in these accounts does not fall within the purview of estate assets.
Estate assets can vary significantly in complexity. While some are straightforward and easy to grasp, others, like partnerships, small businesses, stock options, or intellectual property, may present intricate challenges. Moreover, some assets come with specific time constraints for decisions to be made regarding them after the owner’s passing. Careful consideration and, when necessary, professional advice are essential when navigating this multifaceted landscape of estate assets.
What estate planning documents should I have?
A will, power of attorney, advance healthcare directive, and living trust are probably the four documents you should have. But, that always depends on your situation.
A will is a testament that states what a person’s wishes are for their estate (assets) to be distributed after they pass. Without a will, someone’s estate can fall into intestacy. That’s to say; the courts will determine what happens to their estate.
Designating a power of attorney grants authority to the individual you select to manage financial affairs on your behalf. This document can take effect immediately or only in cases of incapacity.
An advance health directive, also known as an advance healthcare directive or a living will, is a legal document that allows individuals to specify their healthcare preferences and instructions in the event they become unable to communicate or make decisions about their medical treatment. This document typically covers a range of healthcare-related issues, such as the use of life-sustaining treatments. An advance health directive provides a way for individuals to ensure that their wishes regarding medical care are respected and followed when they are no longer able to express their preferences due to incapacitation or illness.
A living trust is a legal document that allows an individual to place their assets and property into a trust during their lifetime. The person who creates the trust (the grantor or settlor) can manage the assets placed within the trust and often serves as the initial trustee. Once that person passes, the designated trustee then can distribute the assets in the trust.
There are a lot of different documents and tools that GA estate planning could potentially include. This is because this area of the law can vary based on the federal, state, and even local laws. So, the short answer is; it depends what specific documents you or your family might need.
Probate Attorneys in Atlanta and Metro Area
If you leave your assets to your loved ones with a will, everything you own is going to pass through probate. The probate process is expensive, takes a lot of time, and is on public record. If you plan ahead properly, your assets can pass on to your loved ones without going through probate, in a manner that is faster, less expensive, and completely private.
The probate court, with a judge who does not know you and does not know your family, stays in control of the process until the estate has been completely settled and distributed. If you are married and have children, you want to make certain your surviving family has immediate access to cash to pay for living expenses while your estate is being settled. It is not uncommon for the probate court to freeze your assets for weeks or even months while your executor is working to make the proper disposition of your estate. Your surviving spouse may be forced to apply to the probate court for support to get access to cash needed to pay the family’s current living expenses.
If you need to get in touch with our Georgia probate attorneys, hit the link below to give us call.
Designating A Guardian For Medical Care
If you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own financial affairs, you might mistakenly think, as a lot of folks do, your spouse or adult children can automatically step in and take over for you in handling your personal and medical care. The shocking truth is that for others to be able to manage your care, they have to first petition the probate court to have you declared legally incompetent and appoint a guardian to manage your personal care. If you are incapacitated, you should create a plan for your medical care. Read more about the basics of an Advance Directive for Healthcare here.
How do I name a guardian for my children?
This is one of the questions that our estate planning attorneys receive most frequently. In most cases, parents are, by law, the people who can make decisions about their children. However, in the event that this right is taken away or parents pass away, the question arises of who can/will step in. This is the moment when a will or living will comes into effect. In these documents, a legal guardian can be named to take care of the minor children. If these documents are not created or not valid then the court will take on the responsibility of appointing a guardian.
Our Family Law and Estate Planning attorneys are here for you
There are a lot of aspects of estate planning that simply can’t be covered in a short article. If you’re looking for highly respected GA estate planning and probate attorneys at your service, give our team a call. We can go in-depth and discuss everything from a last will and testament to how your personal property can be affected by things like a revocable living trust or financial power of attorney.
The lawyers at The Manely Firm, P.C., seek to exceed our clients’ expectations, no matter how complicated the case may be. We analyze the details of your case, put together a solid plan, and help you to execute a legal strategy that can work towards your benefit.
To discuss your case or get help in any of the legal areas above, contact our Georgia law firm. Call 844-630-2730 or send us an email.
Click here to download your free Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care or Power of Attorney forms. One of our Client Care Coordinators will be in touch to insure you have all the information you need to meet your estate planning goals.