Northeast Georgia Estate Planning Lawyer

Planning your estate’s future is critical. Many families believe that they don’t own enough property or that they don’t have enough assets to worry about preparing a will. This is simply not true.

A will helps your loved ones in so many ways, it allows your family members to know how you would like to distribute your property, it lets you appoint those people that you want to represent you when you are gone and it provides peace of mind not only for you during your lifetime but your family after you are gone. Creating a will is as much for your benefit as it is for your family.

Wills and other estate plans aren’t just for the wealthy — they help everyone. Please call the Wilbanks Law Firm to discuss your estate planning needs. We’ll explain the benefits of a will and other estate planning documents in Georgia.

Call (706) 510-0000 to get started.

Understanding Georgia Probate Laws

After you die, your estate will be processed through probate. Your “last will and testament” appoints those people you want to represent you and it tells your personal representative how to distribute your assets and possessions to your heirs and beneficiaries. During the estate process all of your debts, liabilities and taxes will also be paid.

Probate can be an extensive, stressful and confusing process, sometimes lasting months or even longer, depending on the circumstances.

A properly established will can protect your family and minimize the time your estate spends in probate.

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Essential Estate Planning Documents

When considering your estate plan, there are several tools you can use to protect your assets and family.

Wills & Advance Healthcare Directives

Probably the most well-known estate planning tool is a last will and testament, a will is a document that outlines your wishes for your assets after your death. A will takes effect upon your death. A will appoints an executor of your estate to settle your debts and distribute your property.

A will tells the executor how to distribute your estate with explicit instructions. If you have minor children, a will also name a preferred guardian for your minor children should you and your spouse pass away.

Another great estate planning tool is an advanced healthcare directive. An advanced healthcare directive combines both what used to be known as a living will and a durable healthcare power of attorney.

This document appoints those people you wish to act as your agent upon your incapacity. An advance healthcare directive takes effect upon your incapacity or disability and ceases to be valid upon your death.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney appoints a person of your choosing to act as your agent for all matters regarding your finances. In the event of your incapacity, your chosen agent will be able to pay your bills, contact social security, sell your property if necessary to pay for your long-term care, and act in any other financial matter on your behalf.

Creating Your Estate Plan

You don’t need to go through a major life event such as having children, retiring, or inheriting from your parents to decide you need a will. Unexpected events can upset even the best-laid plans. An estate plan can allow you to prepare for anything at any time, no matter your age or circumstances.

Once you’ve decided you need a will and powers of attorney, give us a call. We can explain the process for making a will in Georgia and help you get started.

Evaluate Your Estate

As you start planning to make your will, you should know what property you have available that can be transferred. Some property will automatically transfer upon your death if it is titled correctly. For instance, if you share property with someone else such as your spouse, it will go to them if it is titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship, if it is not titled that way then the property will have to go through the probate process.

It is imperative that your assets be titled correctly. These are just some of the issues that we will discuss with you during an estate planning evaluation meeting.

Decide Who Will Inherit Your Property

Once you have an idea of what assets you have available to distribute , you then need to decide who will receive those assets. Once the will is probated, the executor will distribute assets to the assigned beneficiaries.

Decide Who Will Represent You After Your Death

Deciding who will be your executor is no small task. You must determine who you think will be a responsible, thoughtful and who will carry out your wishes down to the last letter.

Generally we have a primary executor and then at least two (2) successor executors in the event that your first named executor predeceases you or is unable or unwilling to serve as your executor.

Name a Guardian of Your Minor Children

If you have minor children, it’s advised that you name a guardian for them. If you don’t name anyone, the court will appoint a guardian. It’s safer to plan who will care for your children if the worst happens instead of leaving it to the courts.

You can also name a conservator, someone who will care for the children’s property until they become 18.

Create and Validate Your Will

There are requirements you must meet in order to have a valid will. You must be at least 14 years of age, of sound mind and body, not be incapacitated, and voluntarily choose to prepare and sign it. You’ll sign the will in front of two unrelated, disinterested witnesses who will watch you sign your will.

These witnesses cannot be beneficiaries. Once your will has been signed and finalized, you should store it somewhere safe and easily accessible to your personal representative so it can be found and filed with the probate court after your death.

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FAQs About Georgia Estate Planning

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

If there isn’t a valid will at the time of death, a decedent will be considered “intestate.” An administrator will need to be appointed to act as the representative of the estate, this can be a family member, close family friend, financial institution or the county administrator may be appointed. All estate assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy for the State of Georgia.

Can I Change My Will?

You are allowed to revoke or change your will at any time in Georgia. If you’re making significant changes to your will, it may be in your best interest to revoke your will and create a new one. If the changes are simple, you can use an amendment known as a “codicil,” which is executed in the same manner that your original will was. Your codicil would then be placed with your original will.

Do I need My Will Notarized?

Not in Georgia. But if you choose to make your will “self-proving,” a method to speed up the probate process, you’ll need a notary. A self-proved will does not need extra steps to be validated. We recommend having your will notarized.

What are Trusts?

Trusts are estate planning tools that allow you to retain assets and designate who will receive them after you pass away. A trust establishes a trustee to oversee property and distribute it at the appropriate time. Trusts operate differently than wills. We can answer questions you have about them.

Where Does My Will Get Filed?

After your death, your executor will file your will along with a petition to probate. This petition and will need to be filed in the probate court of the county where you lived. So if you live in Jackson County, for example, your will would need to be filed with the Jackson County Probate Court.

Have more questions? Please feel free to contact our office to have those questions answered.

Call Us for Your Estate Planning Needs

When you decide that you are ready to have your will and powers of attorney prepared we recommend that you give the Wilbanks Law Firm a call. We understand how complicated the probate process is, and we want to help you protect your assets and protect your family. We can start working on your estate planning documents with a phone call where we get your essential information.

Once your documents have been prepared and reviewed, we will then schedule a follow-up appointment. This process does not have to be time consuming or difficult, the Wilbanks Law Firm strives to make this a pleasant and easy process.

Attorney and founder Dylan Wilbanks has been a civil litigator for more than 20 years. He has helped many clients work through their probate needs. He knows the benefits a well-thought-out will can offer and is ready to help you with that process.

Call us at (706) 510-0000 or use our online form to get started.