Estate Planning Made Easy

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My name is John Farrell and I'm an attorney in Marietta, Georgia and the author of Estate Planning for the Modern Family. Estate Planning for the Modern Family is a step-by-step guide to estate planning here in Georgia and it's over 140 pages of great resources to help you with your estate planning. But, this video is about "Estate Planning Made Easy" and it's going to give you some of the first things you need to do in order to make your estate planning easy.

So, the first thing you are going to want to do is to define your estate planning goals. It's a good idea to begin by defining exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. Of course, you want to make sure your property and your assets are properly distributed upon your passing but this can mean different things.

Dying without a Will in Georgia means that the state decides the distribution regardless of you wishes or perhaps your loved one's needs. In Georgia, we call this dying "intestate." So, while dying intestate is certainly one way to distribute your assets it is certainly not the best way. It's usually better to make sure your legacy goes to those who you choose for yourself. So, start asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do you want to choose who will raise your minor children?
  • Do you want to put aside protection for your adult special needs child?
  • Do you want to ensure your business enters the right hands if you become incapacitated or die?
  • Are you interested in minimizing estate taxes and court fees and legal expenses? Is there a group or charity you wish to support upon your passing?

These are some of the things that may be very important to you and you can refer to this list as you plan your estate as you answer those types of questions. So, the first thing you want to do is define your estate planning goals.

The second thing that you want to do is list your assets. Now, this step can seem fairly straightforward. You want to list things of value that will be left behind once you become incapacitated or pass away. This list may include things like:

  • Your home or other real estate that you may have.
  • Investments, pension plans, things like insurance policies.
  • Even checking accounts and savings accounts and valuable collectibles that you may have.
  • Something included as well is personal effects. All of those non-titled things in your home like art and china and even sofas.
  • Anything else you can think of. Working with an experienced Georgia estate planning and probate lawyer can also help you brainstorm assets you may not think of yourself and these are things like your photos on Facebook or digital music and things of that nature you may not see as part of your estate but it certainly is.

The third step in this process is to choose your beneficiaries. What you want to do is just list the individuals in your life that you want to receive a part of your estate upon your passing. Beneficiaries may be individuals like your spouse and children but they could also be people like your parents or nieces and nephews. And they can also be things like corporations or non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross or things of that nature. Note that some beneficiaries may already be designated through other instruments. For example, if you have a life insurance policy that requires you to designate a beneficiary and it will typically bypass the probate process in general. So, certain things like life insurance policies, certain investment accounts, retirement accounts, 401(k)'s, things of that nature that require you to designate a beneficiary will typically bypass the probate process and go to those people. You certainly want to decide who you want to receive your estate upon your passing.

Once you have those three things together, the next thing you want to do is prepare a Last Will and Testament. That is one of the most basic estate planning instruments out there. Other estate planning instruments may be better for you and that's why it's good to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney. Things like trusts. Those are certainly very popular these days and may be more appropriate for you. But, regardless of who you are, whether you are rich or poor, young or old, everyone can benefit from having a Last Will and Testament in place.

It's one of the biggest mistakes you can make and it can have lasting consequences if you do not have a Last Will and Testament in place. I think there have been surveys done that say that half the people in Georgia do not have a Will in place. It's startling to think that some parents will leave more instructions to a babysitter when they're going to be gone for one night than they will leave for their family when they're going to be gone for a lifetime and unable to call home and check in.

We often hear these stories when it comes to celebrities, but fact is no matter how wealthy or poor you are, young or old, everyone should at least have a Last Will and Testament in place.

A Last Will and Testament is legal document where a person, you, they are typically known as the Testator, state their wishes and desires as to the disposition of their property upon their death. This is not to be confused with a Living Will which is an Advance Directive for Health Care that people use while they are still alive. The Last Will and Testament is used following someone's passing rather than before their passing with the Healthcare Power of Attorney.

A properly arranged Will can do lots of things for you:

  1. It can name a Guardian that you choose for your children.
  2. It can leave specific instructions on how you want your property is divided.
  3. It can choose who is the Executor for the estate which is the person who will be dividing things up.
  4. It can give you assurances that your assets, your possessions are going to go to the people you want them to go to.
  5. It can even create trusts for any minor children you have.

The last thing that you want to do in this process is to make sure you get a Last Will and Testament in place. You'll want to consult with a Georgia Will and Estate Planning Attorney when drafting your Will. One of the nice things about the Will is that you are able to modify it at any time as long as you are mentally competent and able to do so. And you can change it if you have a change in your family or financial or other circumstances.

Those are generally the four steps in the process to make sure your Estate Planning is made easy:

  1. Define your estate planning goals.
  2. List your Assets
  3. Choose your Beneficiaries
  4. Prepare your Last Will and Testament.

Hopefully this has been helpful to you to get you started. If there's anything we can do to assist you, please feel free to reach out to us and we'll be glad to assist you.

Georgia Estate and Trust Planning Guides

Note: If you want to brush up on the basics of Georgia estate planning (Wills, Probate, Power of Attorney, Revocable Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts and Advanced Healthcare Directives) take a look at these free ebooks.

At the Farrell Law Firm, PC, we represent Georgia residents in Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Atlanta, Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Austell, Powder Springs, Clarkdale, Ball Ground, Canton, Holly Springs, Lebanon, Cartersville, Calhoun, Waleska, Woodstock, Alpharetta, Fairburn, Palmetto, Red Oak, Roswell, Dallas, Hiram, Dunwoody, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Cumming, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Bartow County, Fulton County, Douglas County, Gwinnett County, and Paulding County.