While a will is certainly an effective planning tool that is appropriate to use in many situations, there are many other legal tools available in estate planning that can protect assets, minimize tax liability, and potentially avoid the costs associated with the probate process. Beneficiary designations, titling of assets, and powers of attorney are other important examples of prudent estate planning.
Wills and Trusts
Absent a Will and/or Trust, your estate and assets will be distributed according to the Georgia laws of intestacy which may or may not accurately reflect the wishes of the deceased. For this reason, it is highly important for everyone, regardless of age or health, to discuss with an attorney whether or not they should draft a will or trust.
A Will and/or Trust can accomplish several very important goals:
- Your assets will pass to the individual(s) whom you desire, not based on Georgia intestacy law
- You will select who raises your minor children (guardians) in case of the death of you and your spouse, who manages your children’s money (trustee), and at what age they receive it
- You can designate who will carry out your wishes, transfer your possessions (Executor), and provide for independent administration of your estate, meaning no bond or court approval
- If you have a taxable estate, you can reduce your estate tax burden
A “one size fits all” estate plan does not exist. Our approach is to sit down with each client and clearly identify his/her objectives, so that we may create an estate plan that effectively fits your needs.
Powers of Attorney
While a Will or Trust concerns items after one is deceased, planning for all possible future events, including those that a person may not want to consider is crucial. Unfortunately, many people become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves due to accidents, illnesses, or other medical conditions.
Financial/Durable Power of Attorney. A durable power of attorney is crucial for various decisions. A durable power of attorney is a type of document that gives another person the power to make decisions on your behalf and is “durable” because it remains in effect after a person has become incapacitated. While a will or a trust can address what happens to your estate after you pass away, powers of attorney ensure that things are properly managed in the event that a person can no longer handle his or her own affairs. In many cases, having a financially durable power of attorney is significantly easier than pursuing a guardianship after a person has already become incapacitated. These kinds of documents go into effect when they are signed or may only go into effect once a person has become incapacitated as certified by a physician.
Georgia Advanced Directive. This document combines what is typically known as a Living Will and Power of Attorney for Healthcare. This allows you to designate an individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated along with stating other preferences such as disposition of your remains, organ donation, etc. These decisions can relate to various issues, including the type of treatment that you will receive and whether any extraordinary measures should be used to address your medical condition, as well as others.