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Another step to make estate administration easier on family

Even when a Georgia resident is well-known by his or her family members, understanding the thinking behind certain decisions may not be easy. Wills are designed to pass on assets, reduce taxes and achieve other wishes of the testator. However, family members often need more guidance in order to get through estate administration.

A will can handle the legalities of death, but it may not contain further instructions that could make carrying out those wishes less confusing and complex. A will could reference a letter expressing other, additional last wishes that family members can use as an instruction sheet. Those Georgia residents who include a "letter of final wishes" can make arrangements for their funerals, explain the contents of the will and provide for pets, among other things.

What happens to debts during estate administration and probate

Georgia residents appointed as executors in the wills of their loved ones may be under the impression that their duty is just to distribute the assets of the estate. Unfortunately, that perception is incorrect. Many other duties are required of executors during estate administration and probate, including settling the decedent's debts.

The first thing that executors and family members need to know is that they are not personally responsible for the debts of their loved ones unless they co-signed or are jointly responsible for the balanced owed. It might help alleviate some trepidation regarding a decedent's loved ones to know this as quickly as possible. Unscrupulous creditors may attempt to convince these individuals of the opposite.

Beneficiary designations, estate administration and probate

Creating a plan for providing for loved ones after death requires making numerous decisions. One of the considerations many Georgia residents have is how to reduce the time, money and effort those left behind spend in and on estate administration and probate. One way to do that could be through beneficiary designations.

Several types of property can be transferred through these designations. Bank accounts, retirement accounts and insurance policies are just three of them. Georgia residents who want a specific person to receive the funds from a bank account can fill out a payable on death form. Upon death, the proceeds remaining in the account will go to that person.

Avoiding estate administration and probate

The goal of many Georgia residents is to avoid making their families wait to receive their inheritances. Most often, this is done by creating an estate plan that bypasses estate administration and probate. Several estate-planning tools help in this endeavor.

Some property passes to family members by operation of law. For example, if a husband and wife own a home as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship," when one spouse dies, the other automatically becomes full owner of the property. The home would only go through probate after the surviving spouse's death if other arrangements are not made in advance.

Can a revocable trust ease estate administration and probate?

Georgia residents have many tools at their disposal when it comes to planning for taking care of their families after death. One such tool is a revocable trust. Using this type of trust could ease the estate administration and probate process.

A revocable trust is created during a Georgia resident's lifetime. Married individuals may create a joint trust. That individual -- and spouse, if any -- may serve as the grantor (creator), beneficiary and trustee if he or she so chooses.

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.

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191 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 4400
Atlanta, GA 30303
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