The will and its role in estate administration

When Georgia residents die, their assets will need to be distributed. If there is a will, surviving family members have some instructions as to whom will receive the assets left behind. However, a will is only part of the equation when it comes to estate administration

Wills only provide instructions regarding assets that are subject to probate. Some assets, such as property owned with another person, retirement accounts and insurance policies, among others, are not subject to probate. These assets will pass to another person or persons by "operation of law," which means that regardless of what the will might say, the person or persons named on the title or on the beneficiary designation will receive those assets. Property held in a living trust will also not go through probate.

There are also certain limitations placed on wills. For example, a spouse cannot be specifically disinherited in a will. A spouse would have to specifically waive his or her rights to any portion of an estate in a prenuptial agreement or some other appropriate document. In addition to these limitations, a will must first be declared valid by the court before any of its instructions are followed. It must comply with state law regarding fitness to sign, witnesses and any other statutory requirements to ensure that the will was signed with the decedent's full knowledge and consent.

Making estate administration less stressful for surviving family members and the executor of the will should be part of estate planning. Even if not all of an individual's wishes and goals are covered by the will, it is still the cornerstone of every Georgia resident's estate plan. Without this document, administering an estate becomes even more of a challenge, since it could cause unnecessary court actions that cost time, money and even familial relationships.

Source: FindLaw, "Estate Administration: The Will After Death", Accessed on Oct. 22, 2016

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