Planning your estate is an important step in protecting your assets, your wishes, and the people that matter to you the most. There are a number of options available, as any estate planning lawyer can tell you. Do you need a will? A trust? Is it possible that you don't need either?
It's very rare that an adult wouldn't need some form of estate planning. You may think that because you don't have a massive estate that the distribution process would be simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. Instead, your estate, no matter how large or small, will have to go through the probate process and will be distributed according to Georgia state law.
Generally speaking, your assets will go to your nearest living relative, which could be a spouse, parent, or child. This is, of course, after the local probate process has taken place and any number of court and attorney's fees have been deducted. If no living relatives can be found, it's likely that all of your assets will become property of the state to do with as it pleases.
As you can see, the government already has an “estate plan” for you; you simply have to determine if it's the plan you really want. Do you trust the courts to name someone to care for you and manage your affairs in the event of incapacity? Are you comfortable allowing them to determine what should happen to your belongings or your family?
If the answer is “NO,” it's time to get a will, trust, and other key estate planning documents in place.
Considerations for Wills
If you're trying to determine the benefits of wills vs trusts, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
- Wills are often sufficient for those leaving behind less than $150,000 in assets.
- If you want to leave something to a friend, partner, or organization you support, a will gives you this opportunity.
- A will allows you to choose who will carry out your wishes regarding your estate (the executor of the will).
- If you have dependent children, a will can provide you the opportunity to name their guardians in the event of your death, rather than leaving that choice solely to the courts.
- Keep in mind that a will doesn't keep your estate out of probate, so those costs and the time involved will still apply.
- When your estate goes through probate, all the matters become part of the public record.
Considerations for a Trust
- Those who own a home should generally consider a trust, as should those whose assets are worth more than $150,000.
- Like a will, the trust can usually be revoked or modified while you are still living.
- Unlike a will, however, a trust allows your beneficiaries to skip the probate process.
- Trusts are held private, and the details of them are not made part of the public record.
- Do you have wishes about how your heirs use the funds you leave to them? Do you want payouts to only happen if heirs reach a certain milestone (graduate, maintain sobriety) or hit a certain age? A trust can give you this level of control and oversight.
Work With An Estate Planning Attorney For Best Results
It's highly recommended that individuals utilize the expertise of an attorney when determining if you need a will or a trust. Our attorneys will be able to steer you in the right direction in addition to suggesting ways to reduce taxes, set up funds for surviving family members, and conduct charitable giving in a way that fits your values.
We are happy to help you get started in creating a will or trust that meets the unique needs of your personal and financial situation. Simply call our law firm at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session ($600 value) at no charge with the mention of this article.