Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way — To Probate Court | Marietta Estate Planning Lawyers

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way — To Probate Court | Marietta Estate Planning Lawyers

One day William’s daughter read in an article that a will was not the best way to leave property to heirs. Wills often involve long and expensive court proceedings and there are other, more efficient ways to pass on savings to family. But William was a person who knew his own mind, and he felt sure that a simple will would be good enough for him.

A will without court approval is nothing more than the paper it’s written on. Wills, by themselves, are not enough to prevent property from staying “stuck” in a decedent’s name. The only way a will could be effective, to give William’s daughter the inheritance he wanted her to have, was for his daughter to go to court after he passed. Courts make sure that wills are valid, debts are paid, and – despite whatever the will may say – whether other family members might also have a legal right to a portion of the estate. Worse, because probate court files are public record, anybody off the street could have open access to all documents filed there, including wills.

So when William’s daughter filed in probate court after he died, she soon found herself besieged by get-rich-quick con artists. William’s estranged second wife’s children showed up to demand a piece of his estate. When a small loan William owed on his house was discovered, a property broker flagged the house for foreclosure and the daughter’s lawyer had to move fast to keep the house off the auction block.

It took over three years to resolve these complications. Even simple probate matters can end up costing between two and eight percent of the total estate value. William’s daughter had to pay around $30,000.00 in court costs, attorneys’ fees, and accounting expenses. She then had a minor traffic accident. Even though nobody was hurt, the other driver sued her and she eventually spent a significant chunk of the rest of her inheritance on attorneys’ fees and court charges.

If only William had heeded his daughter’s advice, these difficulties could have been avoided or minimized. Here is what an experienced Marietta estate planning attorney could have recommended instead.

Making his bank account “POD.” William kept a modest sum in a savings account. He could have left that money to his daughter using a “payable on death” (POD) designation, simply naming his daughter as owner of his account on his passing. Then all his daughter would have to do would be to present William’s death certificate and proper identification, and the bank would pay over the funds to her. No fees, no fuss, no exposure.

Deeding his house. There are several inexpensive and effective options to use deeds to transfer ownership of real estate automatically, without the need for probate. An attorney would know which kind of deed would have suited William best.

Protecting the inheritance. William had several antique cars worth around $50,000.00. An attorney could have created a trust for William, transferred ownership of the cars into the trust, and named his daughter as trustee. As long as the trust was carefully drafted, the money those cars could fetch might have been protected from the accident litigation.

Small-estate proceedings. William’s estate was too large to benefit, but, for smaller holdings, most if not all states permit shortened and simplified proceedings that avoid the costs and delay of full-blown probate proceedings. These go by various names, including “small-estate” or “voluntary-administration,” or “summary-administration” proceedings. As long as an estate is worth less than the upper limit set by law, property can be distributed without the court supervision that probate proceedings otherwise require. The limit varies depending on the state, generally between $30,000.00 and $100,000.00. In Georgia, accounts with less than $10,000 can be transferred by affidavit and without probate and so can automobiles.

When it comes to wills, there are many better alternatives that would have kept William’s financial affairs more-efficiently managed and private. Attorneys know. Please ask. Call our Marietta estate planning lawyers at 770-425-6060 and let us educate you so you can make the decision of what planning tools are best for you and your family.

Marietta Will and Trust Lawyer: Sell the House, or Keep It for the Kids?

Marietta Will and Trust Lawyer: Sell the House, or Keep It for the Kids?

Like many Americans, your home is probably your largest asset. However, if you have children who have grown and moved away, you’re left with an empty nest, quiet and big. You may be torn between keeping the house and passing it to your children someday, or selling it. On one hand, it may be the biggest asset you could pass onto your children. On the other hand, you have your own immediate needs to consider, and maybe you’re not quite sure your kids could handle the house when you are gone. Before deciding whether to sell or keep your home, consider the following:

Taxes

 Your estate won’t pay federal estate taxes if the property is worth less than $11.2 million (current amount per person in 2018; $22.4 million for a couple), and Georgia has no estate or inheritance tax to deal with. Likewise, if your heirs keep the house, they will have to pay for upkeep, including property taxes. Property taxes increase as property values increase. While your children may want to have your house, they may not be ready to pay the taxes.

Your children will also have to pay taxes if they sell the house. This may be no big deal if the house is very valuable, gets a good price, and is sold in a seller’s market. However, if your children feel compelled to sell it, they may not be able to wait for an ideal time. You, on the other hand, may have time to wait for better conditions and can better absorb the taxes.

Time

Regardless of whether your children keep your house or not, they may have to deal with cleaning, de-cluttering, repairs, and renovations. Unless you’ve been diligent with downsizing, you may be leaving a lot of work for your children, who may also have jobs and families to care for. You, however, may be in a better position to make your house move-in ready for your children or whoever buys the house.

The Here and Now 

It’s important to plan for your future, but estate planning is about the present, too. You’re still alive, and you not only have needs, but desires and wishes. You probably don’t want to spend all your golden years planning for the time when you won’t be around.

If you don’t want to keep and care for a big house, you could still maximize the inheritance you are leaving to your family while enjoying your life. You could sell your house and buy a smaller condo, while putting the remaining money in a trust to take care of your expenses while you relax, take up a hobby, explore the world, or spend your time focusing on volunteer and charity work. The trust can then be left to your family when you are gone someday.

A Marietta will and trust lawyer can help you create an estate plan that fits your present needs and your desire to leave something for your children. We can help you understand both the laws that govern your property and the relationships you want to preserve. If you’d like to speak to our Marietta will and trust attorneys about creating an estate plan that is tailored to your needs, simply call 770-425-6060 to set up a consultation.

 

 

 

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