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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.

New to Georgia? Talk to Your Marietta Will and Trust Lawyer About Your Estate Plan.

New to Georgia? Talk to Your Marietta Will and Trust Lawyer About Your Estate Plan.

Will and Trust lawyers in Marietta have the important job of helping their clients create a legacy that is compliant with a number of different laws. For the most part, these laws will vary from state to state.  Some differences are minor, while others can impact an estate plan significantly.  Someone who already has established a will, trust, or other legal documents in one state should probably review their documents with a qualified attorney before relocating to another.

For example, if you created a trust in Georgia but then move to Florida for retirement, you will want to talk to a local Florida attorney to ensure that your wishes would still be honored and your new property protected under Florida state laws.  If you don’t know a lawyer in your new state, ask your current attorney if he or she can help make a referral.

If you are not moving away for good but still plan to buy property out of state, perhaps to live as a “snowbird” for half the year, you still need to notify your lawyer and ensure you have plans that work under each state’s laws. Otherwise, you could wind up in a situation where your estate goes through two separate probates, and your family is forced to fly all over the country to handle your end-of-life affairs.

There are some additional estate planning documents that should always be addressed with an estate planning lawyer when moving to a new state.  Powers of attorney are vital for determining who can represent you should you become incapacitated, and those are administered under state law.  Powers of attorney drawn up by a will and trust lawyer in Marietta may be disregarded by the courts in another area of the country so again, talk to your lawyer to ensure your documents will remain in compliance.

A final consideration in the discussion of where to establish a trust is the tax implications. By working with a qualified Marietta will and trust lawyer, you can uncover which state may hold the highest benefits for you, your estate, and your heirs for tax purposes.  It is possible to have trusts set up in more than one state, though the complexities of doing so are absolutely something that should be done with the guidance of a knowledgeable professional with plenty of experience in trusts administration.

Because estate planning documents take time to put in place, talk to your lawyer well before the date that you plan to leave the state for good. That will ensure that your documents will work as you intend them to, no matter where you are in the United States! For help getting started, contact our Marietta will and trust lawyers at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation.





Wills & Trust Administration Basics in Marietta: What Is a Will Contest?

Wills & Trust Administration Basics in Marietta: What Is a Will Contest?

When it comes to the administration of your will in Marietta, you likely assume that the hard work and planning you put in with your lawyer will ensure everything goes off without a hitch.  The good news is that this is precisely what happens the majority of the time.  Wills and trust administration is a big job, and the sole purpose of creating a will is to make your wishes as clear as possible to simplify the process.

When a will is “contested” that means that it is being challenged for some reason.  Fortunately, heirs can’t simply overturn your will because they’re not happy with it.  Instead, they have to show a legal reason that the will itself is invalid.  If it is found to be invalid, then the administration process changes dramatically for all involved.

Who Can Contest a Will in Georgia

As mentioned above, a will can’t just be contested because someone doesn’t think you left him or her enough or to create more drama at an already difficult time.  Instead, it must be shown that there is a valid reason for contesting.  Those who can contest a will during the administration process include:

  • Someone named in the will who feels he or should have inherited differently
  • Someone not named in the will who thinks he or she should have been

One way to determine if a person has standing to contest the will is to determine if he or she would have inherited if you had died without one and your estate had gone into probate.

Reasons for a Georgia Will Contest

Simply being unhappy with your share isn’t enough for a court to consider a request to contest a will.  Instead, specific problems must be shown.  For example:

  • The testator was unduly influenced
  • The testator did not have the mental capacity to make binding decisions
  • There was a mistake in the will
  • The will constitutes fraud or was created fraudulently

If any of these things are found to be true, then all or part of the will can be voided.  If the entire will is considered invalid, then its administration is governed by Georgia’s intestate laws.  If only part of the will is questionable, then that portion of the estate can be added to the residuary estate and dispersed as the will otherwise states.

No Contest Clauses

Many Marietta estate planning clients work to improve the desired outcome of their wills by including “no contest” clauses.  These typically state that anyone attempting to contest your will is simply disinherited.  That may be enough of an incentive to stop someone from interfering with your wishes out of their own sense of greed or mischief.  Working with a local Marietta wills and trusts lawyer will ensure that you are following the applicable laws for our state. Call us at 770-425-6060 and let us help you analyze and evaluate your situation.


Marietta Will Lawyer: Pros and Cons of Prepaid Funeral Contracts

Marietta Will Lawyer: Pros and Cons of Prepaid Funeral Contracts

Funerals can be very expensive here in Marietta, Georgia.  Many families pay up to $10,000 (and oftentimes more) for their loved one’s funeral. Hoping to relieve family members from the stress of this financial burden, the idea of paying for funeral expenses in advance using a prepaid funeral contract is growing in popularity. As with any financial decision, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of this investment.

Some of the benefits of prepaid funeral contracts are:

  • Your family does not have to deal with the emotional burden of planning your funeral.
  • Your family has financial help, and sometimes full payment of your funeral costs.
  • Many times you can lock-in the cost of your funeral at today’s price rather than a higher price in the future when the funeral is held.
  • You can often pay in installments.

Some of potential risks of prepaid funeral contracts include:

  • The funeral home could go out of business.
  • You may not be able to get a refund if you change your mind.
  • You may not be earning interest on the money you invest.
  • You could move or die away from home and your contract may not be transferable.

Before you sign on the bottom line, be sure to talk to a qualified will and estate attorney here in Marietta GA. There may be safer ways to set aside or invest money that will accomplish your goal of taking care of your final arrangements and decreasing the stress on your family. The bottom line is that it is critical to gather as much information as possible before tying up your money with a local funeral home.

If you’d like to talk to our Marietta will lawyers about taking care of your family so they don’t suffer financially at the time of your death, give us a call at 770-425-6060.


The REAL Reason Prince Didn’t Have a Will… Do YOU Have the Same Problem?

The REAL Reason Prince Didn’t Have a Will… Do YOU Have the Same Problem?

As an East Cobb estate planning lawyer, I know the REAL reason why Prince died without a Will or Trust… and why this is likely the same reason that many folks in our area are struggling to create their estate plans as well.

Following the shocking death of Prince, folks across the country were equally shocked to learn that the musical genius died without a Will or Trust in place to deal with the distribution of his fortune and valuable music catalogue when he passed away.

Dying without a Will in his home state of Minnesota now means that Prince’s wealth will likely be distributed among his six siblings... but only after more than half likely gets distributed to his other newfound family member, Uncle Sam. Yikes!

Obviously it wasn’t a lack of money stopping Prince from creating an estate plan to protect his assets and wishes if something happened to him. He had plenty of cash and access to high-powered lawyers in his own home state and across the country.

So what was the problem?

Well, according to a new report from TMZ, Prince was afraid to work with an attorney to get his affairs in order.

He bounced from advisor to advisor and professional to professional out of fear of being taken advantage of.

He didn’t want to subject himself to misguided information.

And, he feared becoming preyed upon by professionals with ulterior motives.

Before you write Prince off as crazy paranoid, believe it or not, this is exactly what stops average families from getting their affairs in order, too.

Maybe they don’t have millions of dollars in the bank and an impressive music catalogue like Prince did, but they hold on tightly (and rightfully, so) to the money and assets they do have… much of which they’ve worked hard for decades to acquire.

It’s only natural, then, that when faced with a crisis such as a medical illness, incapacity, the blending of a family, a divorce, a lawsuit, whatever, a general fear tends to rise up in folks that the attorneys they are meeting with to help them create a plan to protect their assets and families might be taking advantage of them or simply don’t have their best interest in mind.

Perhaps they have sticker shock at the basic cost of a Will or Trust. Or, they may feel like the attorney or advisor is just preying on them during a weak moment in their life.

In any of these scenarios, what ends up happening when someone has these feelings is that they freeze from the fear and end up doing NOTHING. Just like Prince.

As an East Cobb estate planning attorney, I’m not going to say that these fears are unfounded. There are bad eggs in every bunch, including attorneys and financial advisors.

But the fallout of not protecting your family with a proper estate plan does not outweigh the risk and fear of being taken for a ride! If you want to be certain that everything you’ve worked so hard for actually goes to your loved ones, and not the government when you are gone, you’ve got to plan.

If you want to make sure your kids are raised by only the people YOU WANT if you unexpectedly pass away, you’ve got to plan.

If you desire to keep your life’s work safe from nursing homes, creditors, predators, lawsuits and divorce, YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE A PLAN.

You even need a plan to ensure your medical wishes are honored as you want. Here’s another area that Prince likely dropped the ball.

As a Jehovah’s Witness, he was opposed to any form of blood transfusion. But, did he have that legally documented? Because if he did not, and was incapacitated in the hospital for any length of time, his next-of-kin sister might have decided to go ahead with a transfusion. And it would have been perfectly legal, even though it was against everything he believed in.

I hope I’ve made it clear that you NEED to have an estate plan. Every adult does. It’s not an option.

And, the good news is that you can take proactive steps now to AVOID being taken advantage of or sold products or services that you really don’t need by an attorney or other type of financial advisor.

The key is to start your planning BEFORE a crisis strikes.

My best advice would be to start interviewing attorneys and local professionals while you are still healthy and have the mental capacity to make your wishes known. Your end-goal should be to compile a team of advisors that you know, like and trust to support you and your family during all of life’s transitions.

Don’t be afraid to compare services, compare costs (note: cheaper does NOT always mean better in this area) and even compare office procedures for each attorney. Ask tough questions like:

  • How do you bill? Is it hourly or on a flat fee basis? Will I get a bill for every phone call, email or fax to the office?
  • What happens if I call two years later with questions about my estate plan? How will you accommodate me?
  • How do you ensure that my plan continues to work as my life and the law changes through the years (if you don’t keep your documents updated, they won’t work!)
  • What happens if you close your office, or die? What happens to my file?
  • Will you coordinate the planning efforts we are embarking on with my other advisors so everyone is on the same page?
  • How do you handle updates to my plan in the future?
  • What happens if my goals or circumstances in my life change? What if I get sick or move into a nursing home? Are there trigger provisions that will allow us to deal with a crisis in my plan?
  • How will you support my family if/ when I pass away?

If you take the time to find a professional that can answer these questions to your satisfaction, that has as great reputation and is someone that you seem to “jive with”before there is a crisis in your life, you will feel much more confident and secure to lean on that professional during trying times that may arise in the future.

Sadly, Prince did not follow through in this area, but you can.

Begin to build your team of advisors, right now… at this stage of your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, whether you are young or old, if you have kids or not. Start to build your “A” team. Make it your goal to spare your family from the court costs, taxes, public scrutiny and fighting they would otherwise face if something happened to you.

Take your time to do “meet and greets” and interviews with area advisors. Go to every free workshop that is offered in your area to find that person that you connect with.

And, once you feel comfortable with your team, make the plan. Legally protect your assets, your family, and make your wishes known. Don’t ever let fear stop you from doing the right thing by your loved ones when you can start NOW to take concrete steps that mitigate any risk or loss of control.

You are worth it, and so is your family. Let this be the real legacy (beyond the music) that Prince leaves behind to you and your loved ones today. Call us, your friendly neighborhood East Cobb estate planning attorneys, at 770-425-6060 and let us help you create your plan.

Marietta Will and Trust Lawyer: Should My Will Have Co-Executors?

Marietta Will and Trust Lawyer: Should My Will Have Co-Executors?

When making an estate plan and Last Will and Testament, many people have a difficult time deciding who should be the Executor of their estate. Oftentimes they will consider naming Co-Executors – two or more people who serve as executor of the estate. Each Co-Executor named in your Last Will and Testament will have authority over your estate, and therefore must collaborate and work together to ensure your estate is settled in accordance with your wishes. But is this the right choice for you? Below are some pros and cons to naming Co-Executors in your Will.

Pros for Naming Co-Executors of an Estate

One of the reasons Co-Executors are named in an estate is if there are multiple types of assets that need to be handled. The best example of this would be if you owned digital assets along with tangible assets, yet the Executor you want to name for your estate would not be correctly suited to handle digital assets. In this case, you may want to name a Co-Executor specifically to look after your estate’s digital assets. The same could be said for real estate or automotive properties. Marietta Will and Trust lawyers often bring this scenario up with their clients and encourage them to carefully consider their options when naming Co-Executors to settle their estate.

Cons for Naming Co-Executors of an Estate

Most Marietta Will and Trust lawyers advise their clients to think very carefully about the dynamics that exist between the people they would name as Co-Executors. Many times the stresses of being named Co-Executor can lead to fighting, and in some cases litigation, if the Co-Executors do not see eye-to-eye. In addition, if it’s possible that the Co-Executors may not work well together or will have difficulty carrying out their duties because they live in different areas, you may want to consider naming just one Executor. Proper planning and communication with your Executor / Co-Executors may solve some of these problems, but once again it is suggested that those considering naming Co-Executors weigh the potential benefits against the probable risks.

It should also be noted that in some cases, even if Co-Executors are named in a Will, one or more of the Co-Executors will resign from their position in an attempt to make the process a bit easier by reducing the amount of people involved in authoritative roles. This is something that Marietta Will and Trust lawyers discuss with their clients during the estate planning process, so their clients are aware of the different possibilities that may happen once they’ve passed.

If you have any questions about naming Co-Executors in your Last Will and Testament, or if you want your estate plan reviewed to make sure it is in accordance with your wishes, please contact us at 770.425.6060 to set up a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session.