Effective Counsel Regarding Wills And Estate Plans In Georgia
Having an estate plan is more than just an indication that you’ve thought about your end-of-life wishes. It’s an important legal document that — if done correctly — can ensure that your assets and end-of-life wishes are executed to your exact specifications, not those outlined by intestate succession laws. However, not all estate plans are simple. Individuals with complex assets — including intellectual property rights — and business owners often need skilled help drafting and managing their estate plans because of the sophisticated nature of their estates.
At Jones & Walden LLC, we understand the unique needs of these individuals and regularly work with people throughout the Atlanta area and beyond to create sound estate plans that make sense for their situations. People from all walks of life trust our firm to protect their end-of-life wishes because our experience and diverse legal backgrounds leave our clients feeling confident that all their legal matters are being addressed correctly the first time around.
Understanding The Nature Of Wills In Georgia
A will must be properly executed and comply with certain legal formalities to be enforced in Georgia. Wills require the highest level of formal execution of any legal document commonly made in Georgia.
A will is a formal, enforceable document that establishes a person’s intent regarding disposition of his or her property upon death. In the absence of a will, the state’s laws of succession will apply, but often do not provide the best outcome. It is always prudent and advisable to seek legal counsel regarding preparation and execution of a will. In short, recommended practice dictates that one should only execute a will at a law firm.
Everyone Should Have A Will. But Why?
A will gives its maker the right to determine what happens with his or her property. If a person dies without a will, then they are “intestate” and the process of administering the deceased’s property is more cumbersome and costly.
Everyone should also have a valid, enforceable will to ease the burden on loved ones of dealing with legal issues concerning the estate. When minor children are involved, a will can also dictate who the children’s legally appointed guardian will be (i.e., who will care for the children and their property). A will also specifies a personal representative (known as an executor), who will administer the estate and attend to financial matters.
Individuals should be wary of any advice or encouragement to save money by drafting their own wills. “Do-it-yourself” templates may actually create more issues or problems than they solve. The individual’s heirs will bear the brunt of the problems resulting from a flawed will and may be forced to litigate over any uncertainties. The cost of hiring a professional to prepare a comprehensive and clear will is substantially less than the heirs’ attorney’s fees would be in litigation over a diminished estate.
Distribution Of A Deceased’s Property
Under Georgia law, the distribution of a deceased individual’s property requires the legal appointment of an individual to administer the estate, generally referred to as the personal representative of the deceased. If the personal representative was designated under the terms of the will, then the person is known as the executor. If the personal representative was not selected under a will (for example, when a person dies without a will), the probate court appoints an administrator to manage distribution of the deceased’s estate.
For individuals who die without a will, Georgia law also provides a process for the deceased’s heirs to petition the probate court for a determination that no administration is necessary. This may be accomplished when no estate administration has occurred in Georgia and all the heirs (and any creditors of the estate) have agreed to a division of the deceased’s property. No administration is necessary, for instance, when all the deceased’s property is distributed to the spouse and/or minor children through an award of year’s support.
Complex Estates May Require Additional Tools
While a simple will may be enough for most people, individuals with complex estates or those who own a business may need to employ additional tools to ensure the validity and soundness of their will. Tools like trusts can be incredibly effective, especially in situations involving minor children, considerable assets or business holdings that need to be transferred to family members.
At Jones & Walden LLC, we have experience using a wide variety of estate planning tools, including wills and trusts, to help Georgia residents make smart decisions about the future of their assets.
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Whether you have minimal assets to account for or a larger, more complex estate, our lawyers will make sure your estate plan is set up appropriately the first time around and accounts for all your assets. When you work with our firm, you will always have access to a team of attorneys who have the unique, diverse legal backgrounds necessary to address all your questions and concerns. We provide big-firm experience coupled with the intimate, personalized touch you only get from a small firm.