When you know that you have assets you want to protect, items that you intend to pass on to beneficiaries or heirs and other personal goals that you want to accomplish around incapacity planning, you need an experienced Georgia estate planning law firm to guide you through that process. Estate planning in Georgia does not have to be difficult, but it should be a priority.

Many people put off the prospect of completing their Georgia estate planning because they find it morbid or difficult to talk about this topic but it could end up making things that much more complicated for your loved ones when they have to go through court to obtain necessary documentation or probate your estate. Sitting down with our experienced Atlanta estate planning attorney will give you a far better opportunity to customize your estate planning to your original goals.

We know that it’s never easy to talk about estate planning but it’s a process that we can take you through as painlessly and easily as possible. Read on to learn more about the complete process for Georgia estate planning.

Did you know that as many as 50% of people living in Georgia don’t have an estate plan at all? Their family members often find this out when they search for a will after a loved one has passed away and discover that now it will be the court making decisions about what happens to their loved one’s assets. This only amplifies the difficulty of losing a loved one and it’s a situation that’s easily avoidable by scheduling a consultation with a Georgia estate planning attorney.

It might seem daunting to complete a detailed asset inventory list but you can make things much easier for your beneficiaries by putting in this work now.

Determine What You Want to Accomplish Out of Estate Planning

You might think of estate planning as only for the rich or only for people who have surpassed retirement age. However, estate planning benefits everyone and we often find that it’s the individuals and business owners who don’t realize just how interconnected their estate planning, incapacity planning, elder law planning and tax strategy are. It’s a good idea to kick off your Georgia estate planning process by thinking about what it is you hope to achieve.

A couple of questions need to be answered by you before you sit down with your Georgia estate planning attorney. These will help to direct your overall estate planning goals and put you in a good position to have your initial consultation with a GA estate planning lawyer. These questions include:

  • Are there any charities or other philanthropic efforts you hope to accomplish with your estate planning?
  • Are you concerned about minimizing expenses associated with your estate, including estate taxes, legal expenses or court fees?
  • Do you have specific wishes around your own medical care in the future that you’d want documented in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself?
  • Do you and your partner have firm beliefs about who you’d like to take on the responsibility for your minor children if something happened to you?
  • Do you have a child with special needs who will require advance planning?
  • Do you own and want to ensure that it is protected and a meaningful asset for your loved ones?

Look at All of Your Assets and Debts

It’s impossible to accomplish the Georgia estate planning process without sitting down and knowing where to start. You’ll want to think about all of the items that you owe and all of the items that you own. Your list can include many different kinds of assets including:

  • Collectibles
  • Real estate
  • Pension plans and retirement accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Business interests
  • Real estate
  • Savings accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Personal items

One commonly overlooked aspect of Georgia estate planning is incorporating your digital assets. You probably have online social media accounts, email accounts, or even an account with iTunes. Do you have a plan for what will happen to all of these assets when you pass away? You should.

Open an ongoing list of digital assets so that you can add to it as you open new accounts. You might want to enable all of these to be equipped with a master password through something like Last Pass, such that a personal representative or loved one could gain access if something happened to you.

Decide on Beneficiaries and Choose Your Will

Anyone that you want to receive a portion of your estate when you pass away should be thought of as a beneficiary. Recognize that your will is not the only kind of document that directs who gets what when you’re no longer around. Some documents take precedence over your will, including the beneficiary designation forms you filed with your bank, life insurance policy and retirement accounts.

It doesn’t matter what’s listed in your will in these cases since those documents will take priority. If you’ve been divorced recently and left your ex-spouse on those documents, bear in mind that you’ve made it possible for them to receive any portion previously designated to them. Your will should be created with your individual estate planning goals in mind. A properly written will in Georgia can help you to name a guardian, get assurance that the possessions will pass on to the beneficiaries you want, and name a self-chosen executor for your estate.

Bear in mind that the creation of your will is only the first step. It needs to be kept updated as needed. You’ll want to have a relationship with a trustworthy Georgia estate planning lawyer to help you do this. Make sure that your will is viewed as legally valid by the state. This means that:

  • Your Georgia will is in writing.
  • The testator has to be of sound mind.
  • Two witnesses must sign the will.
  • The testator must sign the will.

In putting together your will, it is strongly recommended that you will name an executor or personal representative to administer your estate after you pass away. This executor must be over 18 years old and of sound mind in order to be eligible to step into this role under Georgia state law.

Most people choose a surviving spouse, siblings or children to handle this responsibility. An executor has many different tasks under the broad umbrella of making sure your property is distributed properly. After you’ve put together a will and named a personal representative, you’ll want to assign your power of attorney. Your power of attorney is an individual legally eligible to step up and take control of your finances or medical decisions depending on the kind of document that you select. Your financial power of attorney enables them to enter into contracts, handle bank transactions, file taxes or engage in other financial transactions on your behalf.

An advance directive, on the other hand, enables you to name your wishes and desires around what medical care you do or don’t want in the future. At this point in the Georgia estate planning process, you’ll want to discuss the minimization of any estate taxes and capital gains on your estate. These complicated tax strategies should be discussed directly with a Georgia estate planning attorney who has extensive experience in tax strategies.

You’ll want to protect your earnings, think about any outside interests in owning a business and ensure that you have thought of other aspects like handling your personal effects and funeral arrangements. This is also an appropriate opportunity to discuss the best strategy for passing on your assets with your Georgia estate planning lawyer. Simply handing over the deed to a house, for example, could have unintended tax consequences for your loved ones. Set aside time to speak with a Georgia estate planning attorney today to discover how to get started.