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It's always wise to plan ahead, especially for what happens after you die. There will be many important matters to plan for like paying debts and taxes, ensuring that your children are left with a guardian if your spouse is gone and distributing your estate to family and friends.
There are many tools to help you with estate planning in Georgia. Whether you live in Atlanta, Augusta or Savannah, you have access to legal estate planning resources like wills, living trusts, advance directives and more. Using LawInfo's Georgia estate planning articles, you can learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family's future and connect with a qualified local attorney.
While not an adequate replacement for a will, a living trust is another method you can use to ensure that certain assets will be inherited by specified beneficiaries when you die. (See the Official Code of Georgia Chapter 12.) You can avoid Georgia's lengthy and expensive probate process by placing assets into a living trust.
To create a trust, you'd name a trustee and transfer ownership of your assets to them. (You can name yourself as the trustee of your estate.) The trustee manages your assets during your lifetime and when you die, the assets are directly transferred to your beneficiaries without going through probate. You can't avoid paying federal estate taxes but more complex trusts may be able to reduce the tax burden.
As you get older, you may want to prepare for a time when you'll no longer be healthy enough to make important health care decisions for yourself. Georgia's advance directive offers a means of making your health care wishes known. You can also assign an agent who could carry out your wishes and a guardian if you ever require one.
Your health care agent can be anyone you choose except for your health care provider or physician. Agents are required to make decisions within the scope of your declared wishes only or within your best interests if your wishes aren't clear for certain decisions.
If you want to ensure that certain assets transfer to certain family members, friends or charities when you die, you can create a Last Will and Testament. Using a will, you can dictate your wishes for unclaimed assets, list beneficiaries, assign an executor who will carry out your wishes and name guardians for your dependent children.
To make a legal will in Georgia, you must:
A will must be made in writing and signed by you (the testator) or a representative if you are unable to sign it and two non-beneficiary witnesses. It's recommended that you update your will after every major life event—such as marriage, divorce or the birth of adoption of a child—to ensure that your wishes are accurately represented should things change.
Not everything you own can be included in your will. Assets that are tied to life insurance, trusts or business contracts cannot be willed to other beneficiaries.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified estate planning lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local estate planning attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.