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Estate Planning 101

Estate planning is an area of law that will, at some point, affect everyone. Estate planning laws organize the process by which we declare how we would like our possessions divided after we die. This also includes our end-of-life medical care wishes. Georgia estate planning laws are not significantly different than estate planning laws in other states, but there are some minor differences. Coming up with an estate plan in Georgia includes four essential documents. These documents include a will, a power of attorney, an advance care directive, and living trust.

A Will -Distributes Assets. A will states who would take ownership of your assets after you die. Your assets will be distributed according to your state's intestacy laws if you don't write a will. Georgias intestacy laws state that your assets will go to your closest relatives if you die without a will in Georgia. This, however, doesn't apply to all assets. Creating a will is the only way for you to control who gets what. You have the freedom to leave your assets to friends, family, or charities the way you wish. In your will, you also choose an executor. This is the person who will make sure the terms of your will are carried out exactly as you want. If you are a parent, having a will is crucial if you have children under 18 because you can name someone who will care for your children if you die before they become adults. It's important to keep in mind that a will does not control the distribution of all assets. A will cannot distribute:

o Life insurance proceeds

o Property held in a living trust

o Assets held in a joint title.

A Power of Attorney- Manages Finances. A power of attorney document authorizes the person you choose to handle financial matters on your behalf if you cannot. Each state has its own rules regarding power of attorney. You can set up a power of attorney to become active only if you are incapacitated or create it so that it is effective immediately if you want to use it for convenience, such as when you are out of town. A power of attorney only applies to the specific things you have outlined in your document. A financial power of attorney does not give the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf and is only effective during your lifetime; once you die, it's void. Georgia power of attorney laws require the document to be in writing, signed by the principal, and witnessed by two competent adults

An Advance Health Care Directive- Manages Your Health. An advance care directive is a document that states your wishes for medical and end-of-life care if you are too sick or unable to make those decisions for yourself. Also called a living will, the advance care directive is a legally binding document that outlines whether we want to be kept alive artificially or die naturally. You can say exactly what you do or do not want. In some states, like Georgia, you can include the person you select to decide for you if you cannot in this document.

A Living Trust- DIstributes Assets bypassing Probate. A living trust allows you to take assets you own and place them into the ownership of a trust you create during your lifetime. The trust owns your assets and manages them while you are alive. After your death, the trustee—the person you choose to manage the trust—distributes the assets to the beneficiaries you have chosen. A living trust is private and does not go through probate court. Your estate saves the cost and time involved in a probate proceeding and instead distributes assets on its own immediately if that is what you wish. A revocable living trust is one you can make changes to during your life and does not remove your assets from your use. You can use your assets as you wish while you are alive. Making sure that you have these important documents for estate planning in place will allow you to prepare yourself and your family for whatever the future brings.


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