A lot of estate planning conversations center around how to best avoid state or federal estate taxes, but not all of Alpharetta residents are going to hit the $5.25 million exemption — or whatever lawmakers decide that amount may be at the time of death. Can estate planning benefit those with estates that don’t add up to multiple millions?
The answer is definitively, yes. Everyone can benefit from a thorough estate plan, and here are couple reasons why and a tool or two that everyone should have on hand.
Without proactive planning, an estate can get tied up in the probate process. Estate taxes are not the only cost incurred during this process; probate itself can be very expensive. Finding ways to avoid probate can really make a difference, especially where there are limited assets to go around.
So how does one avoid probate? Contrary to some popular assumptions, having a will does not mean that your estate will avoid probate. It simply means that the court has your words to follow when making decisions, whereas a court will make decisions based on default rules when one dies intestate (without a will).
Beneficiary designations such as ones made in life insurance policies allow assets to pass immediately, outside of the probate process. Some state laws even allow “payable on death” or “transfer on death” documents to attach to property such as homes, vehicles or bank accounts.
Estate planning isn’t just about the money that we will pass on to our loved ones. It is about health as well. A living will provides specific direction over what medical decisions should be made and what end-of-life measures should be taken if we were to become incapacitated. It also avoids conflict and undue stress placed on family members who are forced to make the decisions during a difficult time.
Understanding what options are available in Georgia, what tools will best protect an estate and even planning for the unpredictability in life are only a few reasons why having the guidance of an experienced attorney is best.
Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning For The Rest Of Us,” Liz Davidson, Sept. 12, 2013