Probate, often associated with stressful and time-consuming processes, is something most people would prefer to avoid. But what exactly is probate, and why would you want to bypass it? Let's dive into understanding probate in Georgia, and how you can strategically avoid it.
Probate is a legal procedure that occurs after a person's death, where their will is validated, their assets inventoried, and their debts and taxes settled. Only after these steps, are the remaining assets distributed to the heirs. This process can be lengthy, often taking months or even years to finalize. If no will exists, probate laws govern how assets are allocated, which might not coincide with the deceased's wishes.
Why Avoid Probate?
Primarily, the two reasons to sidestep probate are cost and time. Probate can be expensive, with court costs, attorney fees, and executor fees quickly accumulating. In terms of time, the procedure can drag out, delaying the disbursement of assets to the rightful heirs. By planning properly, you can avoid these potential downsides and ensure a smoother transition of assets.
The Use of Joint Ownership
One way to circumnavigate probate in Georgia is through joint ownership, or owning property together with another person. If the asset, be it real estate, bank accounts, or vehicles, is owned jointly with rights of survivorship, upon one owner's death, the property automatically transfers to the surviving owner, thus bypassing probate.
Most financial accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, life insurance policies, and even some bank accounts allow you to name a beneficiary. Upon your death, these assets are directly passed on to the beneficiary without going through probate. Regularly review these designations to ensure they align with your current wishes, and know that the beneficiary designations control, even if you have contrary wishes expressed in a Will.
Creating a Revocable Living Trust
Establishing a revocable living trust is another effective way to avoid probate. In this arrangement, you transfer ownership of your property into the trust. You retain control as the trustee, and you can change the trust terms, transfer property in and out of the trust, or even terminate the trust during your lifetime. After your death, the property within the trust is transferred directly to the beneficiaries by the successor trustee, bypassing probate. A revocable living trust is also a great tool for allowing a majority of your assets to easily be managed in the event of your incapacitation.
Take the Next Step Towards Probate-Free Estate Planning
Avoiding probate can simplify the transfer of assets after death and provide peace of mind to you and your loved ones. However, it's essential to understand that the methods mentioned above may not suit everyone, and a mistake in estate planning could potentially lead to complicated legal issues and your wishes not being followed.
At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we are committed to guiding you through the maze of estate planning, ensuring you make informed decisions about your property and legacy. Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan for a probate-free future in Georgia today. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, you can download our free guide here, no strings attached.