Avoiding Probate Court: Tips To Make Things Easier On Loved Ones

August 6th, 2020 | READ MORE

We all know going through the probate process can be a big pain. Especially when a loved one didn’t make a will before he or she passed away.

Planning can make a huge difference when it comes to making things easier for loved ones left behind. But even with a will, your assets will need to go through probate, costing time and money, to settle your estate. It can cause lots of frustration and unnecessary hardships all while trying to deal with all of the emotions that come with the death of a loved one.


But, did you know you can actually plan to avoid probate court, and make things even easier? It IS possible. Here are a few tips to keep your assets from going through probate.

1. Give Away Property
A good way to keep your property out of probate court is to give it away before you die. However, keep in mind, there are limitations and tax consequences for gifted assets, but you could still avoid even that by working with an attorney.

2. Establish Joint Ownership
If you jointly own property with someone, that property is automatically given to the surviving owner. You can establish joint ownership in several ways.

  • Joint Tenancy: The surviving owner will receive full ownership when the other dies without going through probate.
  • Tenancy by the Entirety: This is only available in some states and only available to couples.. Unfortunately, Georgia does not recognize Tenancy by the Entirety. But essentially, each person in the couple owns the whole property undivided and the survivor is entitled to the entire share of the deceased.
  • Community Property: This is also only available for married couples who live or own property in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas or Wisconsin.

3. Convert All Accounts to Pay-On-Death Accounts
This includes bank accounts, IRAs, and similar accounts. It is fairly easy to get done. You would need to fill out a document indicating a beneficiary. When you die, all your money is transferred to that beneficiary without going through probate.

However, it is important to note that your beneficiary will not have any rights of ownership until your death. Also, you can designate more than one beneficiary, however you can not designate successor beneficiaries, meaning if one of your beneficiaries is dead, you can not designate where it would go instead.

4. Revocable Living Trusts
Creating a Revocable Living Trust requires a document that creates the living trust as a separate entity from you. Property titles will be transferred to the trust and you become the trustee. While you are alive, you control the property. When you die, a person you designate as the successor trustee, will ensure the property is transferred to your designated beneficiaries without going through probate.

5.Take Advantage Of Small Estate Laws And Provisions

Many states have simplified their estate-planning procedures for certain types of properties, estates under a certain value, or if everything is left to a surviving spouse. You will need to work with an attorney to find out if you would be eligible.

You may be able to use more of these methods to avoid probate. I can help you determine what is best for you and help you create a plan that will make things that much easier on your loved ones. Head to the contact page now and let’s set up a time to chat.

No Will? Now what?

July 20th, 2020 | READ MORE

When someone dies without a will, things can become complicated. How do you split up the assets? If there is a child, who gets guardianship? When can you sell property?

The unfortunate truth is this happens all too often, and it makes the death of a loved one that much more difficult. Oftentimes, when wishes aren’t spelled out in a will, it can lead to families fighting over money and property.

So what do you do once you discover your loved one didn’t leave a will?

It’s actually much the same as if there was a will. Your first step is to contact a probate lawyer. Sure, you can settle the estate without a lawyer, but by hiring a lawyer you reduce the risk of making a mistake and any future litigation. Plus, using a lawyer can help speed things up.

Next, you’ll file a Petition for Probate in the county where he or she died, then you’ll need to attend a probate hearing. Once your petition for probate is granted, you’ll need to get letters of administration authorizing you to act on behalf of the estate.

You’ll then be able to take inventory of your loved one’s assets including finances and personal property, then pay off any outstanding debts. After that, you can report the final assets to the court. Since there is no will, the court decides who will inherit and how the assets are divided.

Now you will be able to pay yourself as the Executor of the Estate and your lawyer, then divide the assets per the court’s order and close the estate.

So if there is no will, you don’t have to worry too much. Yes, it can make things more complicated, but you will still be able to settle the estate and begin to heal your grief.

If your loved one left no will and you need help with probate, I’d love to help you navigate the system and get it settled as quickly and simply as possible. Click the contact page to set up a consultation.

Planning During The Pandemic

July 16th, 2020 | READ MORE

We’ve all seen the terrible impact COVID-19 has had. The Coronavirus has taken lives of people otherwise considered to be in perfect health. It’s hospitalizing people every day with ICUs maxed out and a growing need for ventilators. People have lost their jobs and are now trying to figure out how to feed their families.

And unfortunately, in many places, social distancing guidelines are being ignored. Cases continue to grow across the US. The undeniable truth is that no one is safe from the Coronavirus and we don’t know if or when things will get back to normal

You’ve heard the phrase “out of an abundance of caution.” That phrase applies to the coronavirus in several ways.

Yes, getting good health coverage, wearing masks and staying home when possible is extremely important, but what people don’t think about, that is also very important, is taking preparations for you and your family should you contract the virus and become incapacitated.


If you haven’t already, now is the time to create an Advanced Directive for Healthcare, a Financial Power of Attorney, and a Last Will & Testament. But how can those help you during the pandemic?

Advanced Directive for Healthcare

Also known as a living will, this document goes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. In this document, outline the type of medical care you want in the event of a serious illness or injury.This will help doctors know your preferences and relieve your family of the burden of having to make potentially life-changing decisions.

Financial Power of Attorney

In this document, you grant someone, often called an agent, the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. This person will be able to handle your finances, bills, and property should you become incapacitated.

Last Will & Testament

This document will express your wishes after you pass away, including funeral arrangements, care of children, and dividing your estate.

If you’re ready to get started planning for this uncertain future, click on the contact tab. I’d love to help you protect your family.

 

 

Why you REALLY need a Will

June 22nd, 2020 | READ MORE

If you have kids, you know what it feels like to be so protective of someone, you would literally do ANYTHING to make sure they are taken care of, happy, and healthy.

Most parents know if it came down to it, they would die for their kids, but what happens to their kids AFTER you die.

Now that you are no longer there to protect them, do you know where they will end up? Who will be the ones to protect them now? Will they get any of your assets?

Unless you have a  Last Will And Testament, there is no way you can answer those questions with certainty.

 

I know, it’s really depressing to think about dying. But the hard truth is, no one lives forever, and you don’t know when your time on this earth will be up!

So let’s start with the basics. What is a Last Will And Testament anyway?

 

A will is basically a legal document listing out your wishes in the event of your death. Think of it as insurance for your assets. What happens to those thousands of dollars you managed to save over your lifetime? If you know who you want to receive that money, it needs to go into a will.

You can also use a will to name guardians for your children. Who do you want your kids to live with? Grandparents? Aunts, Uncles? Maybe an older sibling who is a legal adult? Write it in a will.

So what happens if you DON’T have a will?

Thanks for asking this VERY important question. If you die and you do not have a will, intestate succession laws determine who will receive your assets and how they will be divided. Meaning, if you don’t tell people what you want, the law decides for you. If you do not have a will and you have no surviving relatives, your assets go to the state instead of your best friend Betsy.

If you have kids and do not have a will, the courts will also decide where the child will go.

Having a will also prevents family members having to go to probate court to decide who gets what. I know Thanksgiving dinners can be exhausting with the inevitable arguments, but think about how awkward it would be if your brother and your sister both believe they should get the lion’s share of your assets.

Now if you’re thinking drawing up a will is a hassle and will require time and money you don’t have, consider the situations named in this article. Ask yourself, what do you want to be your legacy? If you’re ready to start drafting today, click on the contact page and let’s set up a time to chat!

No DIY or Legal Doom: How To Create a Valid Will in Georgia

May 8th, 2020 | READ MORE
No DIY or Legal Doom

In light of the current pandemic, many Americans are becoming aware of the importance of creating or updating their estate planning documents. With the extension of some states’ stay in place orders, it may be tempting to create your own documents all on your own. Whether you are considering writing your own will or using an online “do it yourself” (DIY) document creator, there are many reasons why this is one project you shouldn’t undertake without the help of a professional. (more…)

How to Protect Your Wishes

May 5th, 2020 | READ MORE
Will Contestation

Having an updated last will and testament is more important than ever, especially now. However, a will that is poorly created or not frequently updated can be vulnerable to contestation. What is contestation? It is the formal objection to a will’s validity because it either: a) doesn’t reflect the wishes of the person who created the will, or b) because the will does not meet legal standards.

Will contests should be avoided at all costs. Not only can a contest derail your final wishes, but it can also rapidly deplete your estate and wreak emotional havoc on the family members left behind. Fear not. With proper planning, you can prevent that from happening. (more…)

New Rules Issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs

November 28th, 2018 | READ MORE

Effective October 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has new rules regarding the eligibility of applicants applying for pension. These benefits are available to wartime Veterans and surviving spouses of wartime Veterans who are disabled and/or have additional medical needs. There are also financial limitations, which are discussed in more detail below.

Why Did the VA Change the Rules?

Before these new rules were made, the VA offered little guidance on how they determined if an applicant was “in need.” There were vague definitions and limited explanations of who would qualify for these benefits, which led to confusion among applicants and inconsistent determinations of eligibility. Now that the VA has issued clear and bright-line rules, attorneys can better advise their clients and their families, and the integrity and consistency of the pension program is upheld.

Summary of the New Rules

In addition to the minimum active duty, wartime service, and age or disability requirements for these programs, the VA has new rules to determine if an applicant is “in need.” There is now a bright-line rule regarding the net worth of an applicant. This amount is currently set at $123,600.00, and will increase annually. When calculating the net worth amount, assets are combined with annual income (assets + annual gross income = net worth). Out-of-pocket medical expenses can reduce income, and can help applicants qualify for the highest benefit. The home of an applicant is generally not included in this calculation. If the Veteran or other claimant has a net worth over the threshold and thus does not qualify for benefits, there are legal strategies available to get the calculation within the allowed range, including making qualified purchases and accounting for certain medical expenses. In addition, there is now a look-back period of 36 months when applying for needs-based pension. Any asset that was transferred for less than fair market value during the 36-month period immediately preceding the pension benefits application will result in a penalty period, not to exceed five years. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and there are ways to cure or avoid the penalty. There are other provisions of the new rules that apply to annuities and other financial instruments. Before investing in an annuity or other asset that produces income, be sure to contact our office to discuss the possible ramifications of that investment on VA pension benefits. These new rules provide more certainty when applying to the VA for needsbased benefits. Give us a call if you would like to talk further about the changes, or to explore whether you or a loved one may qualify