The Fundamental Element of Estate Planning

A Will is a primary estate-planning document and is a legally binding document that designates how your assets will be distributed upon your death. A simple will is the most fundamental element of estate planning, and though the process of will creation is relatively straightforward, the complexities of Probate Court all but require the retention of an experienced Atlanta probate lawyer to assist you in drawing up your will. Your will can also go hand in hand with a Revocable Living Trust with a pour-over Will, which we recommend in many instances.

Everyone in Georgia essentially has a “will” by default in that the state determines what will become of your assets if you don’t expressly delegate how to dispose of them.

Few if any of us want to let the courts decide who gets our property in the event of our death, and a well conceived will can ensure that your wishes are carried out properly and efficiently.

When creating your Will, you’ll be asked to choose an Executor, or person who will assist with the administration of your estate. Without a well-drafted Will, the settlement of your estate may be subject to Probate Court supervision, which can increase the time and costs of the estate administration process. In general, dealing with the Probate Court and the overall estate administration process estate can take anywhere from six to eight months to three or more years, depending upon how complex your estate is and whether any federal estate or state inheritance tax returns are required.

You can modify your Will at any time as long as you are mentally competent to do so. Your Last Will and Testament should not be confused with a Living Will (which no longer exists in Georgia since 2007) – the Will deals with how your estate should be handled after your death, while a Living Will provides your family and medical care providers with information about what decisions you have made regarding end-of-life care and treatment.

Besides designating the distribution of your estate in your Will, you can

  • Nominate a guardian for your minor children
  • Direct how expenses (such as debts and taxes) are to be paid
  • Establish one or more trusts to be funded after assets go through probate (a trust created by a Will is also known as a Testamentary Trust).

You should consider changing your Will any time your financial or family situation changes significantly, such as if you sell your business, acquire a second home, decide to have or adopt a child, get married, or get divorced. However, a well-drafted Will can also contain provisions which allow it to self-adjust for many events, such as new children or grandchildren or changes in your asset values or the tax laws.

Often times, when individuals attempt to prepare a do-it-yourself Will, it can lead to legal and familial disputes or other problems after your death. And please note: in Georgia, a holographic Will (one handwritten by the testator) is not valid. A competent Georgia attorney experienced in estate planning can help you avoid the many pitfalls which exist and help you ensure that your Will does what you want it to do and allows your Executor to carry out your intentions with as few problems and hassles as possible.

When planning your estate and drawing up your Will, as many as four separate federal taxes can come into play: income, estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. State income, inheritance, or estate taxes can also be a factor. This means that your estate planning attorney should also be an experienced and knowledgeable tax attorney, to help you minimize the potential impact of taxes for your loved ones.

Morgan & DiSalvo is the right choice for all phases of estate planning in Atlanta because we honestly care about our clients, and we do everything that is legally possible to help you achieve your goals. We recognize each one of our clients as unique individuals with specific needs and desires, and we work with you on a personalized basis to make sure that your estate is impeccably planned. If you are interested in retaining an Atlanta estate planning attorney to help you create your will, call Morgan & DiSalvo at (678) 720-0750 or simply fill out the contact form here on the site and we will be glad to answer any estate planning questions that you may have.

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