If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. And for a large number of Georgians, the lack of an estate plan means failing to ensure their wishes are made clear and that their loved ones have a clear path to their inheritance. Additionally, those without an estate plan remain unprotected when making end-of-life and healthcare decisions if they become incapacitated and unable to care for themselves or communicate their wishes.
Many people aren’t aware of the costs and complications that can arise when handling their estate without a well-defined plan. Unfortunately, because it takes a degree of preparation to create one, people often assume an estate plan will be cumbersome, putting it off until – to put it lightly- it’s too late.
The client-centered team at Smith Barid is here to simplify the concept of estate planning by breaking down the fundamental estate planning documents you’ll want to keep in mind when planning for the future. Let’s make sure we are prepared and protected where and when it matters.
The Cornerstones of a Strong Estate Plan: a Living Trust and Will
A living will and trust are integral parts of a strong estate plan. A will can ensure you have made your wishes for property and asset distribution are known, and a living trust can ensure that you have the legal safeguards in place to preserve those wishes without your heirs going through the probate process or having further legal complications in accessing their inheritance.
With a will in place, you will decide who will inherit your property, who will retain guardianship of your minor children, who will manage property for minor inheritors, and who will execute those wishes in your absence. Once you create a legal will and check that you have followed all legal guidelines, you must sign it in front of witnesses and have it accessible when needed. But you’re not fully protected yet.
A simple will won’t protect you from the probate process. Your will can also be contested if there are complicated familial relationships, and debtors will collect first before your heirs. A living trust is a reliable way to protect your assets and your heirs.
There are several types of trusts, and they all put different safeguards in place for the creator and their trustees. You can consult an estate planning lawyer to help you understand and determine which is the best for your situation. Still, for the average family, a revocable living trust is an ideal choice.
Power of Attorney
Another vital element in estate planning is designating a power of attorney to help manage your legal and financial affairs in the event of your death or incapacitation. A Power of Attorney Directive is especially important if you are unmarried and want to make sure that it is up to the courts to decide which person will be in charge of such decisions.
A POA will give the authority to act on your behalf to make decisions about property, finances, and medical care ( in the event you are incapacitated). It should be noted that not all institutions will honor a POA, and further action and counsel may be needed.
Advance Health Care Directive
A Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care is intended to simplify the estate planning process regarding end-of-life decisions and general healthcare for incapacitated persons. Your specific wishes will be clear to avoid any conflict or confusion when making critical and occasionally difficult healthcare and treatment choices if you are unable to make them or communicate them for yourself.
An Estate Plan is Not a “Fix it and Forget it” Process.
Beyond putting the specific documentation in place, reviewing and updating your plan regularly is also critically important. There are changes that you may face personally that would impact your plan, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children and grandchildren, changes to your business, etc… There are also external factors, such as state and federal laws and taxes, that change over time and could affect your finances. You should regularly review your plan to ensure it still reflects your wishes and protects your beneficiaries.
Smith Barid has a proven approach to help guide you along with your estate planning needs. If you are looking for guidance with your estate planning needs, contact us today to speak with a qualified team member.