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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.

Prince's estate administration and probate disputes continue

The estate of superstar Prince continues to take twists and turns that would have been nonexistent had he simply prepared a last will and testament. That document would have given specifics and would have identified the specific heirs and their inheritance percentages. Without the estate planning, the entertainer's fortune has been mostly up for grabs in an estate administration and probate circus that has shocked his fans and the public worldwide, including here in Georgia.

The latest twist is the claim of the heirs of Duane Nelson, Sr., a deceased 'family member.' Nelson was a permanent fixture in the lives of Prince and Prince's father, John L. Nelson. The father told others that Duane was his son. Prince reportedly viewed Duane to be his brother. Duane's heirs are now asking the court to award them their father's share of Prince's $300 million estate.

Review estate administration & probate documents annually

Many Georgia residents draft their wills after the births of their first children but never review the document again. Most people recognize the importance of estate administration & probate to ensure their children are taken care of if the parents should die. However, a significant percentage of individuals do their wills and then neglect to revise the details at regular intervals.

Many circumstances change, and the children for whom a provision was made 30 or 40 years ago may now have their own children. Considering this, wills need to be modified to be relevant at all times. Other changes can include divorces, deaths, births and more. Financial situations change -- an inheritance, lottery winnings or a personal injury award may not have been anticipated in the original drafting of the will but may need to be addressed after receipt of such funds.

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The Bowden Spratt Law Firm, P.C.
191 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 4400
Atlanta, GA 30303
Toll Free: 877-920-1051
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