Estate Planning

Estate planning is not a responsibility that is reserved for the affluent, however one might define that term. It is for everyone – single, married, married with children – who has assets and who wants to transfer wealth to desired beneficiaries in a proactive and prudent, as opposed to a state-prescribed and formulaic, way. The consequences of having no estate plan often include heartache and conflict, and always include the unnecessary outlay of time and expense for loved ones.

A Last Will and Testament names fiduciaries to administer one’s estate, and ultimately to organize and oversee the distribution of probate assets to identified beneficiaries in desired ways. What are “probate assets”? These are assets one owns at death and that are distributed in accordance with the terms of one’s Will. What then, are “non-probate” assets? These are assets that are distributed via contractual provision (e.g., a life insurance policy that names a beneficiary, a retirement plan that does the same thing, a residence owned by a married couple in Georgia as “joint tenants with the right of survivorship”). While a Will has no bearing on the distribution of probate assets, a good estate plan will organize the distribution of both types of assets in desired, and also coordinated, ways.

In designing your Last Will and Testament, we will guide you through a process that will address and answer the following four sets of questions:

  1. Who will be your fiduciaries, both in your Last Will and Testament (executor(s), trustee(s), and guardian(s)), and in your Durable Power of Attorney and Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care appointments?
  2. What probate assets will be distributed (recalling the difference between “probate assets” and “non probate assets”), and what estate tax minimization considerations should be taken into account based upon your balance sheet and the current estate tax environment?;
  3. Who will be your beneficiaries? Will there be any beneficiaries beyond immediate family members? Who should receive your assets in the unlikely event of a “common disaster”?; and
  4. How will your probate assets be distributed to those beneficiaries? Will they be distributed outright via an “I love you” distribution, through trust, or through a combination of both approaches?

We can help you develop a customized estate plan in a cost efficient manner. Please contact David Durham at 404-705-6943 or for more information.