Winder Estate Planning Lawyer

It is important to leave as many matters settled in your life as possible as we never really know most of the time when our life may end.  Having a will prepared provides the legal instruction to ensure your affairs are taken care of according to your desires within the law.  There are also other legal instruments that can be used to avoid probate and make your assets transition much smoother. Mitchell & Crunk Attorneys at Law can help you identify what to write in your Last Will and Testament and create an estate plan as necessary to ensure what you leave behind in this life is taken care of as you would want it to be.

Last Will and Testament

A well known and important aspect of your estate planning is having a Last Will and Testament written.

This is your opportunity to make your wishes known and avoid the State law default rules of where your property and possessions go when you die.  You have the opportunity to choose an Executor or Executrix that you trust to handle your Estate’s property according to your wishes explained in your Last Will and Testament.  You can also designate who will receive your property and who will not.  Another important aspect is choosing who will take care of your minor children if your death occurs while they are young.  It can be especially important to have a Last Will and Testament if you own property and have minor children to plan around the default rules as the default rules in Georgia would give an ownership interest to your children to split with your spouse.  This can cause an issue to have your children with an ownership claim to your property and cause difficulty for your spouse and/or the other parent to deal with.

There are many avenues to find your own Last Will and Testament or purchase a form to fill out your own.  Some are able to have it done correctly, but all too many times we see a well intentioned Last Will and Testament that is not signed, witnessed, and notarized correctly or have the necessary or desired terms included in the Last Will and Testament.  It is a difficult spot to be and know what the damage or trouble that could come because of an incorrect or invalid Last Will and Testament.  The Last Will and Testament should be properly considered, planned, written, and signed to properly do its job in your estate planning.

Avoiding Probate

This tends to be the most common concern for those interested in planning their estate.  In reality, the probate process is not as difficult in Georgia as it can be in other states.  However, there are some actions that can be taken to make a smoother transition for your loved ones.

A key to avoiding needing to probate the estate is by avoiding any property or possessions from being solely in your control when you die.  Any property or possession solely in your control when you die will need to be probated since you are the only person that can sell or access that property or possession.  Conversely, if all property and possessions you own when you die are also in the control of someone else that is alive when you die, then your estate may not need to be probated.  Another concern for probating your estate is to consider any debts you may leave owed by your estate.

A common reason for probating an estate is because some asset like a home or check is owned by the deceased loved one, or now their estate.  The estate can sell that home or cash that check once an Executor or Administrator has been sworn in by the Probate Court.  The Executor or Administrator is given authority by the Court to act for the Estate of the deceased person.  If the deceased person had a Last Will and Testament, then they have an Executor or Executrix.  If they do not have a Last Will and Testament then the Court will appoint an Administrator.  The Executor will distribute the property and possessions owned by the deceased person according to their instructions in their Last Will and Testament.  The Administrator will distribute the deceased person’s property and possessions owned by the deceased person according to default rules in Georgia.

Some items to consider and discuss to avoid probate:

-Check deed to real estate you own looking for “Rights of Survivorship”

-Setting up bank accounts properly

-Making sure beneficiaries and backup beneficiaries are properly designated with Life Insurance, and Retirement Accounts

-Consider setting up a Trust if applicable

Advanced Medical Directive for Healthcare or “Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney”

This document allows you to make your medical treatment preferences and decisions known related to how your body is treated while you are still alive but unable to explain or communicate those treatment preferences on your own.  You also can choose an agent and backup agents that you trust to act in your name and make decisions for you to avoid family disputes and confusing messages to the medical professionals treating you.

Our office can guide you through this document and explain what decisions you can make and why and then make sure it is properly written and signed to match those decisions and wishes.

Financial Power of Attorney

Power-of-AttorneyWe never know when we may find ourselves injured, sick, or simply distanced for whatever reason from our financial affairs and unable to handle them when we need to.  At that moment our family can be at a loss as to how they can pay your bills when your bank will not work with them.

One option is to have a Guardian appointed by the Court to handle your affairs.  This involves filing proper legal documents, possibly a hearing with a few family members involved and a significant amount of time and money spent while your financial affairs wait and wait.

A simpler solution is executing a Financial Power of Attorney.  This allows you to choose someone you trust to act in your name whenever you need them to just like you could for yourself.  Of course you must trust them to now cause harm or fraud to your possessions and financial affairs.

You must have the proper mental capacity and awareness to sign a Financial Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, or any Estate Planning documents for that matter.  Don’t wait until the time has passed and it is too late.