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This mistake could complicate estate administration and probate

Many Georgia residents feel relief once they execute a plan to care for loved ones after they pass away. However, the work is not always done once the documents are signed. In order to ensure that an individual's wishes will be appropriately carried out, it might be necessary to take additional steps. Otherwise, a smooth estate administration and probate could turn into a complicated mess.

For example, when a woman was diagnosed with cancer, she and her second husband went to an attorney to set up an estate plan. As part of that plan, her estate was to be divided equally between her husband and her two children from a previous marriage. Once the documents were signed, they believed that everything was in place to make that happen.

Are you overwhelmed by estate administration and probate duties?

Even if you agreed to undertake the responsibility of being an executor or personal representative of the estate of a Georgia loved one who is now deceased, you might not have truly been prepared for the duties before you. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by estate administration and probate. Fortunately, help is available.

More than likely, your goal is to get through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, if you do not fully understand your duties, that could present quite a challenge. An attorney can tell you what steps you must take and provide you with invaluable help during the process.

When friendly estate administration and probate go up in flames

When a Georgia resident dies, the potential for conflict over the assets left behind remains regardless of how well he or she planned. Any chance of friendly estate administration and probate goes up in flames when surviving family members argue and initiate litigation over the estate. This happened to one family in which the decedent owned a tobacco farm prior to death.

The litigation over the estate has gone on for around seven years. At the center of the litigation is a tobacco farm that provides tobacco for cigars. The farm brings in approximately $2 million per year. When the decedent executed his will in 2004, he reportedly had $5 million in assets with only $100 in debt. A recent filing in court regarding the estate's inventory now lists assets in the amount of $2.8 million dollars and debt of approximately $7 million.

Keep estate administration and probate from getting ugly

Nearly every Georgia family has its issues. If those issues carry over into the estate administration and probate process, it could get ugly. There are ways to limit this possibility, depending on how an estate plan is structured.

Failing to have even a will is one of the quickest ways for surviving family members to end up in court. Of course, it is necessary to file a probate even with a will, but without one, the state of Georgia decides who inherits the decedent's property, and that can cause major problems. A will can help limit any potential conflicts, but depending on its provisions, someone might believe there is reason to question it.

Update your plan to make estate administration and probate easier

The Boy Scout motto "Be prepared" translates into many areas of a Georgia resident's life. Estate planning is one of those areas in which making advance preparations eases the burdens on family members in the event of incapacitation or death. However, if the plan is not updated when needed, it may make estate administration and probate more difficult when the time comes.

Estate plans need to be reviewed periodically or upon the occurrence of a major life event such as a marriage, divorce or birth of a child. In many cases, a change in circumstances may need to be accommodated to ensure that a person's goals are still being met by the documents. People change, relationships change and circumstances change -- and an estate plan may require changes as well.

These mistakes complicate estate administration and probate

When celebrities die, news outlets here in Georgia and elsewhere carry stories about how they died and what happens to their families now that they are gone. Like everyone else, celebrities make estate-planning mistakes that complicate estate administration and probate. These errors present an opportunity for everyone to learn what not to do in order to make the process easier on surviving family members.

Obviously, most people -- whether here in Georgia or elsewhere -- do not accumulate the amount of wealth that many celebrities do, but that does not mean that the lessons are any less applicable. Take the recent death of Prince, for example. He failed to create an estate plan at all, and now his siblings and others are fighting over who will receive what share of his millions of dollars and other assets. Furthermore, a substantial portion of his wealth will go to taxes, attorney's fees and other costs.

Estate administration and probate protection in a new marriage

Gone are the days of the Brady Bunch when it seemed that blended families fit together with only minor hiccups that were easily resolved in a 20 minute television show. While it may not be too difficult to figure out where to live and how to delegate parental duties in a newly created family, it may require greater effort to ensure that one has updated plans in place when it comes to estate administration and probate protection. Georgia families may benefit from reviewing their current wills and trusts to ensure that their loved ones are provided for in the manner they desire.

One of the first areas that may require a second look involves beneficiary listings on any current documents one has in place. If these documents have not been updated, then one's former spouse may be the one who is still entitled to receive any assets listed. Ensuring that plans reflect the current circumstances will go a long way in providing peace of mind. In addition, it may be helpful to spell out specifically how any assets are to be distributed.

Making estate administration and probate as easy as possible

Providing for loved ones after death is a primary goal of many Georgia residents. They made the effort to create a comprehensive estate plan that they believe expresses their wishes and will provide for their loved ones. However, the documents themselves might not be enough to make estate administration and probate as easy as possible for surviving family members.

Much of the personal information that accompanies accounts such as passwords is not included in estate-planning documents for security purposes. This information needs to be kept in a place where it can be readily located or provided to a trusted family member such as a spouse. Otherwise, it could delay distribution of those assets.

Don't let taxes mar estate administration and probate after death

Like many Georgia residents, after spending your life accumulating significant wealth that is intended to provide for your family both during life and after death, you more than likely would not want the federal government taking any more of your estate than absolutely necessary, if any at all. That is exactly what could happen, however, without proper planning. Taxes could mar the estate administration and probate commenced after your death.

Fortunately, Georgia no longer has an estate tax, so planning is only required to minimize or eliminate the need to pay federal estate taxes. Estate planning has a variety of ways to accomplish this goal. Which methods are used largely depends on your needs and desires. Some of the vehicles used are tax sensitive wills, life insurance trusts and family investment companies. Still other estate planning tools include valuation freeze strategies, post-mortem planning and charitable planning.

Estate administration and probate planning can prevent disputes

Although most people do not spend much time planning their estates, those in Georgia who own businesses may be more likely to make wills so that their heirs can benefit from their hard work. A well-known woman in another state built a reputable florist shop. When she died at age 86 from Alzheimer's disease, the estate administration and probate of her assets became a source of contention. Despite the fact that she made a will, at least one of the beneficiaries of the will was not satisfied.

The woman left the shop and the rest of her estate to her children. Her daughter inherited the shop since she helped her mother keep the business going as the mother's health deteriorated. The woman then divided the rest of her estate equally between her daughter and son, and left 10 percent to the only child of another son who had died 20 years earlier.

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