Wills & Trusts Basics

Basic Documents Everyone Should Have
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Directive (Georgia Law as of July 1, 2007)
About Wills

What is a Will?
A legal document, signed and witnessed in accordance with Georgia law, designating:

  • Who will receive your property after your death.
  • Who will be the Guardian of your minor children.
  • Who will be the Executor of your estate.

Why Do I Need A Will?
To legally formalize some very important choices. Your Will allows you to:

  • Choose the person who will serve as Guardian of your minor children after your death.
  • Control who inherits your property (home, automobile, jewelry, collectibles, family heirlooms, cash, investments, etc.) after your death.
  • Choose the person who will act as your Executor, distributing your property to the beneficiaries named in your Will.

What if I Die Without a Will?
Then state law will control distribution of your assets, and the court will make decisions for you.

  • The court will appoint a Guardian for your minor children.
  • The court will appoint an Administrator to settle your estate and distribute your property.
  • Your property will be inherited in accordance with rules determined by Georgia state law, which may not match your wishes.
What is a Durable Financial Power of Attorney?

A legal document that authorizes someone you trust to pay your bills and handle all of your financial affairs, if you become incapacitated. This document is very important, as it helps avoid a costly court Conservatorship proceeding in the event of an unexpected accident or illness.

What is a Health Care Directive?

(Georgia Law as of July 1, 2007)
A legal document that authorizes someone you trust to make medical decisions for you, which may include life and death decisions, if you are incapacitated. Without this document , the persons you would prefer to make these decisions may not be allowed to do so, and your wished may never be known or honored. Previously, Georgia law provided for a Health Care power of Attorney and a separate Living Will. Now, these two documents have been combined into one comprehensive Health Care Directive.

What is a Trust?

A trust is an arrangement in which one person (the Trustee) holds and manages property for the benefit of another person (the Beneficiary).

What’s the Difference Between a “Living Trust” and any other Trust?
A “living trust” is a trust that you set up and fund while you are alive. The legal term for such a trust is “inter vivos.” A trust that becomes effective only upon your death would not be a living trust. This type of trust is called a “testamentary trust.”

Should I Use a “Living Trust” To avoid probate?
Possibly. Living Trusts are not for everyone, but they are recommended in a number of situations:

  • Clients who want to save on probate costs (the savings on court costs and probate legal fees almost always exceed the upfront cost of having a Living Trust prepared)
  • Clients who want to avoid court filings and associated delays in estate settlement (no probate court filing is required to settle property in a Living Trust)
  • Clients who have children from a prior marriage (may help to avoid a Will contest)
  • Clients who want to cut a spouse or child out of their Will (may help to avoid a Will contest)
  • Clients who for any reason anticipate a dispute or Will contest after their death (may help to avoid a Will contest)
  • Clients with health concerns (allows someone to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated)
  • Clients who value privacy (Living Trusts are a private matter, while Wills become a public record after you die)

We are happy to discuss whether a Living Trust would be appropriate for you.

What are Trusts used for?
Trusts can be used for many purposes. For persons who are elderly or incapacitated, setting up a trust with an institutional trustee (such as a bank or trust company) provides professional asset management and practical assistance, such as payment of monthly bills. Trusts can also be an important estate planning tool for those seeking to avoid federal estate taxes, make charitable gifts, or protect assets for future generations.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of developing a strategy for the distribution of your property after your death, so that your property goes to the persons you want to benefit, and in a way that minimizes or avoids estate taxes.

We can structure your will and use different types of trusts to help you achieve this important life goal.

What is Probate? Our estate lawyers will assist you with the probate process, which is the official court proceeding that determines the validity and authenticity of a Will, establishes the process of gathering the assets of a deceased person, paying any outstanding debts, last illness expenses and probate costs, and then distributing the remaining money and property to the appropriate persons in accordance with the deceased’s Will or in accordance with Georgia law, if there is no Will.

The material in this page is provided for general information purposes only; it is not intended to constitute legal advice.