Estate Essentials: Wills and Trusts

Estate planning ensures your property and assets will be distributed, and your affairs will be handled, in the way you desire after your death. The most fundamental building blocks of estate planning are wills and trusts. (Note: Estate planning can also encompass legally binding plans for financial and medical decisions if you become incapacitated prior to death. These are discussed in Advanced Directives/Living Wills).

Wills: Although generally not sufficient by themselves, wills form the foundation for ensuring your assets are dispersed in the manner you choose after death. However, division of assets is not the only reason to have a legally binding will. A valid will also lets you specify:

  • Who will raise your minor children (without the involvement of the courts).
  • What gifts and donations you wish to make to charity or other non-taxable sources—or to anyone up to $13,000, reducing the estate value before taxes are calculated.
  • Which trusted person (the Executor) will resolve outstanding issues, from closing bank and credit card accounts to stopping subscriptions, terminating leases, and other activities that would burden your family.
  • Who won’t inherit from you. A will allows you to specifically disinherit estranged family members or ex-spouses who might successfully petition the courts for proceeds from your estate.

Wills are also easier to change than other estate instruments, like trusts. For younger individuals whose life circumstances may change frequently, a will provides flexible protection against accidental death before other asset considerations come into the picture.

Trusts: Especially valuable for wealthy individuals or those engaging in advance tax management of potential estate assets, trusts bring additional flexibility to estate planning. For example, they enable asset disbursements while you are alive that continue after death. Trusts also ease the path for a designated individual (a trustee) to handle your affairs should you be incapacitated without an advanced directive or living will, avoiding the undesirable outcome of guardianship.

Trusts have other benefits as well, including:

  • Extended Distribution: Trusts can place conditions on how and when assets are distributed, even long after death.
  • Avoiding Probate Court: In Georgia and many states, even estates with a valid will must be probated. One or more trusts is the only way to exclude assets from the probate process.
  • Asset Protection: With assets in trust for your heirs, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for creditors or the courts to seize them.

Contact Us for a Free Initial Phone Consultation

For expert handling of your estate planning needs, including indisputable wills and trusts, call lawyer Decatur, GA. attorney Robert Turner at phone number(404) 377-6941 or fill out the contact form on this web site.