Regarding estate planning, one of the most common questions at Peach State Wills & Trusts is whether it's possible to avoid probate in Georgia. The short answer is yes, it is possible, but it takes some effort. In this blog post, we'll explore ways you can structure your estate to minimize or even bypass the probate process entirely. Our goal is to provide you with helpful information so you can make informed decisions about your estate plan.
Understanding Probate in Georgia
Before we dive into how to avoid probate, it's essential to understand what probate is and why people often want to avoid it. Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It involves proving that the deceased person's will is valid, inventorying the deceased person's property, appraising the property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property as the will (or state law, if there's no will) directs. The probate process can be time-consuming and might be costly (especially if there are disagreements), so many people seek ways to avoid it.
Options for Avoiding Probate
There are several strategies you can use to minimize or avoid probate in Georgia. Here, we outline some of the most common tools or methods that might be used to keep an asset out of the probate process:
Revocable Living Trusts: One of the most effective ways to avoid probate is by creating a revocable living trust. Assets placed in a trust are not subject to probate and can be passed directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust.
Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship: Another way to avoid probate is to hold property jointly with the right of survivorship. This means that when one owner dies, the surviving owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the property, bypassing the probate process.
Payable on Death (POD) and Transfer on Death (TOD) Accounts: POD and TOD accounts allow you to designate a beneficiary who will inherit the funds upon your death without going through probate. This can typically be done for bank and credit union accounts, and non-retirement investment accounts, for example.
Beneficiary Designations: Certain assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, allow you to name a beneficiary who will inherit the asset upon your death without going through probate.
Gifts: Another way to avoid probate is to give away assets as gifts during your lifetime. Any asset you don't own at the time of your death, would not need to go through probate.
The key to avoiding probate is based upon how all of your assets are owned at the moment you die. Because of that, estate planning is not a transaction where you pay for a set of documents and store them away never to think of them again. Rather, it is a process, in which your planning tools, and ownership of your assets, are reviewed periodically to ensure that they are in alignment, and that your wishes are known, well-documented and able to be easily followed after your death.
Remember, it is always best to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before deciding what tools may be best for you to use to avoid probate; at Peach State Wills & Trusts, we would be happy to help, as there are many factors to consider, including the tax consequences (that might come from, for example, joint ownership of assets as well as gifting of assets) and the laws can be complex.
The above mentioned strategies are just a few examples of ways that might be utilized to avoid probate in Georgia. The best approach will depend on your circumstances, goals, and preferences. That's where we come in. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, with our help, you will have the following:
Personalized Guidance: At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. We delve deep, getting to know you and understanding your aspirations and concerns. With this personal insight, we can better advise which probate avoidance techniques best fit your situation.
A Wealth of Knowledge: Legal terrain can be complicated, and the probate process is no exception. Our expertise ensures that your estate plan won't just be effective today, but it'll stand the test of time, adapting to any changes in the legal landscape or your circumstances, as you work with us over time to ensure that your plan is updated when appropriate in light of changes to your situation, your wishes, and the laws.
Proactive Approach: Avoiding probate isn't just about what happens after you're gone; it's also about enjoying peace of mind today. Knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are cared for can offer immense relief. We're here to help you achieve that serenity, ensuring that every decision you make is an informed one.
Building Relationships: Our commitment to you continues once your estate plan is in place. As life evolves — be it through the birth of a grandchild, the purchase of a new home, or any other significant event — your estate plan may need adjustments. We're here for the long haul, ready to assist whenever you need.
Transparency and Trust: We believe in open communication. With us, you'll always be in the loop, understanding the 'why' behind every recommendation. Building trust is paramount, and we strive to ensure our clients feel confident in our guidance.
Ready to Plan for Your Future?
Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan for your future in Georgia today. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, you can download our free guide here, no strings attached. We're here to help you every step of the way, ensuring that your estate is structured in a way that meets your needs and helps you avoid probate in Georgia.