Estate planning assures that your wishes are honored regarding end-of-life care decisions and that the assets you have worked a lifetime to acquire will be distributed to your heirs as you would prefer.
Without the proper execution of common estate planning documents – a will, trust, health care directive, power of attorney – what happens to you and the property that you have accumulated is up to a local Clerk of Court. Failure to plan can also leave your family with avoidable costs.
The estate planning lawyers of Adamson & Cleveland in Athens, GA, can guide you through the process, document your wishes and ensure your instructions are followed when you cannot speak for yourself. We will take the time to understand your goals, explain your options and answer your questions every step of the way.
Planning for the latter stages of life is a gift to your family – and to yourself. Contact us today to get started.
How Our Athens Estate Planning Lawyers Can Help You
The foundation of an estate plan is a will, which ensures that your wishes are carried out after your death. Estate planning can also ensure that your preferences are known if you become incapacitated and someone else must make medical, long-term care and end-of-life decisions on your behalf.
Our compassionate and experienced estate planning attorneys can help you establish a:
- Will. Your will states your instructions for the disposition of your estate or assets after your death. If you die without a will, state law determines how your estate will be divided. A will can name individuals you want to serve as guardian of any minor children who survive you. It also outlines what will be done with your assets, such as real estate. A properly documented “self-proving” will in Georgia speeds up probate, the legal process of administering the deceased’s estate, because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.
- Trust. A living trust designates a trustee to take over the management of assets held by the trust under certain conditions, such as if you become incapacitated or when you die. Because the trustee’s obligations are spelled out, probate is unnecessary. Living trusts can be established for the disposition of specific funds or assets and may include instructions for distribution over time or at a specific date, such as when a minor-age child reaches adulthood.
- Power of attorney. Granting power of attorney (POA)to an individual or institution such as a law firm or an accounting firm ensures that someone you know and trust can act on your behalf without court intervention if you become mentally or physically unable to handle your own affairs. You may establish a general power of attorney or assign separate obligations and authority with financial and medical powers of attorney. Limited PoAs can be established for defined terms, such as while undergoing a medical procedure.
- Living will. Establishing an advanced healthcare directive, or living will, ensures your family has clear guidance on such issues as providing or withholding end-of-life medical care should you become incapacitated. Living wills provide guidance for doctors and caregivers in cases of terminal illness, catastrophic injury, coma, late-stage dementia, etc.
Estate planning can be done at any age and updated as your circumstances change, such as a change in marital status or the addition of children.
Unexpected tragedies occur every day and leave shocked and stressed families facing difficult decisions without clear knowledge of what their loved one would have wanted. If you want to protect your loved ones, you need an attorney with a deep understanding of estate planning law, who understands wills & trusts as well as proper estate planning and administration. Our estate planning lawyers have been serving Athens for years and are ready to help you as soon as you call our law offices.
Tax Considerations in Your Georgia Estate Planning
Georgia has no inheritance tax, but some people refer to estate tax as inheritance tax. This is a tax paid by high-value estates before any assets are distributed to heirs. It is not paid by the person inheriting assets of the estate.
Georgia’s estate tax is based on federal estate tax law. Under federal tax law, estates with less than approximately $5 million in assets are not subject to estate taxes.
Despite the high threshold for an estate tax, many families in Georgia are surprised to be assessed after all assets of the estate, such as insurance policy payouts, are considered. An estate tax can significantly reduce what the beneficiaries of a will or trustees inherit.
There are options that can be put in place to reduce the value of a high-dollar estate to minimize the amount subject to federal estate taxes, including:
- Marital deductions. Gifts or bequests to a spouse via the will are not taxed.
- A-B Trust. An A-B trust is a joint trust created by a married couple. Upon the death of one spouse, an A-B trust divides into two, and trust A becomes the survivor’s trust and trust B becomes the decedent’s trust. Assets in the survivor’s trust are not part of the decedent’s estate.
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust. An irrevocable life insurance trust separates proceeds of a life insurance policy(s) from the estate, which shields them from being counted when determining the estate’s tax liability.
Estate Administration Assistance in Georgia
When a person dies in Georgia, their estate typically goes into probate to settle the deceased person’s financial affairs. Probate is the legal process in which the state ensures that creditors and taxes are paid and the deceased person’s property and assets are transferred to the beneficiaries.
In probate, an executor named in the will or an administrator named by the local Clerk of Court is put in charge of administering the estate. This is a temporary position with fiduciary duties. Georgia law requires the executor or administrator to “protect and preserve” the estate’s assets and treat all interested parties to the estate with due regard for their respective rights.
In many cases, the executor of an estate has no experience with the numerous obligations that they must attend to and perform correctly under penalty of law. The probate court and clerk’s office cannot provide legal advice to an executor / administrator, but outside counsel can.
Our estate planning attorneys at Adamson & Cleveland can advise you about such matters as:
- Locating documents that affect the value of the estate
- Creating an inventory of assets and debts
- Filing tax returns
- Preparing deeds
- Filing title transfers
- Answering benefit claims
- Providing creditor notices
- Addressing debtor demands
- Answering beneficiary demands
- Managing, investing and protecting estate assets.
Our Athens GA estate planning law firm can answer your questions from start to finish and help you compile documents as you take on the duties of estate administration.
Contact Our Athens Estate Planning Lawyers
A compassionate and experienced Athens GA estate planning attorney at Adamson & Cleveland, LLC, can help you put plans in place to benefit you and your family when your guidance is needed but you are unable to provide it. We understand estate planning law, and we’ll give you the trusted advice and the one-on-one attention you deserve.
Contact our law offices today at 470-558-0318 or online for sound, personal legal assistance in Athens about preparing a will and your other estate planning or estate administration needs. We’ve been serving Athens for years with elder law and estate law related issues, and we are ready to help you now.