Everyone should have a plan in place especially when there are children involved. It is never too early to plan! In fact, many of our clients are motivated to come in only after they have endured a bad experience with a parent who failed to plan leaving the children to pick up the pieces in administering the estate. Planning is really about caring for those whom we love and who will be looking after us in the event that we are incapacitated or after our death. Regardless of the extent of your assets, there are decisions that need to be made so the time is always right to plan ahead.
The short answer is “it depends.” In Georgia, the basic plan generally includes three documents: Advance Directive for Health Care (Georgia combined the Living Will & Health Care Power of Attorney into a single instrument); Financial Power of Attorney; and Last Will and Testament. Many clients think that the Last Will & Testament is the all that they need but this is a common misconception. Rather, the two most important documents are the Advance Directive for Health Care and Financial Power of Attorney as these two instruments address your needs while you are alive! Upon death, those two instruments become null and void; hence, the Last Will & Testament is now controlling.
Probate is the process of gathering a deceased individual’s assets, inventorying the assets, paying debts, and, lastly, distributing any remaining property to heirs or beneficiaries. Heirs are the recipients of a decedent’s property where the decedent dies without a Last Will & Testament; hence, beneficiaries are the recipients where the decedent dies with a Last Will & Testament.
Regardless of whether one dies with a Will or without a Will, probate is generally required. If there is no Will then state law controls who will receive the property. In Georgia, probate generally takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months; whereas in states like Florida, where we are also licensed to practice, probate is more burdensome where it is usually a 12 month process.
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Yes, in more advanced planning, we can draft and execute a Revocable Living Trust. This costs a little extra but it can be advantageous in certain circumstances. Instances where a Revocable Living Trust is usually recommended is where either: the client has three or more children (more likely for one of them to be disgruntled and, as a result, can cause the others hardship in court); or where there are second marriages with “mixed” families; or where the client owns real property in two or more states. This is not an exclusive list but you get the idea!
This is the highest level of planning where we utilize Irrevocable Trusts. These trusts are primarily utilized for those with a high net worth or for purposes of long-term care planning (i.e. Medicaid Planning). At Tuggle Law we have the experience and knowledge to draft these trusts and will be more than happy to explain the various aspects of this type of planning in a free consultation.