“Time flies, people get married, divorced, or remarried. Children grow into adults. Family and individual circumstances change, but how often do we revisit our living and testamentary estate plans? Every year we hear of a death of a family breadwinner who died without a will.”
The (Dunwoody GA) Crier notes in its recent article, “Estate planning basics 2017,” that in Georgia (and also Alabama), if a married person dies without a valid will, what passes to the spouse depends on whether or not the deceased has living descendants. If this is the situation, they and their spouse share in the intestate property equally, but the spouse’s share can’t be less than a third (half in Alabama).
If you don’t have a will, the state will make those decisions for you. The provisions may be less than ideal. When it comes to property disposition, a will is just a piece of an estate plan. If you own assets jointly with another person, such as joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS), the property passes outside of a will or probate directly to the survivor. The same is true for a Payable on Death (POD) designation.
Beneficiary designations on retirement plans like 401(k) plans, IRA accounts, and life insurance, also pass assets directly to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries. The disposition of assets held in a trust is governed by trust provisions.
If you died today, are you sure your assets would pass according to your wishes? Is your estate plan tax efficient? If you own a business, do you have a succession plan to maximize value to your heirs and surviving business partners? Succession planning for a closely-held business is a structured plan to transfer ownership, control, and management of the business.
Your 18-year-old is off to college. She’s now an adult. If she had a terrible accident and was hospitalized, her parents, under privacy laws, can’t get any medical information on their adult child. Without a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, appointing mom or dad as decision maker, you’re powerless. If you’re responsible for a young adult, you need to have a will and powers of attorney for assets and health care in place.
Review your estate plan, check your beneficiary designations and review all of your legal documents. Schedule an insurance audit of your life, disability, health and long-term care policies.
Reference: The (Dunwoody GA) Crier (January 31, 2017) “Estate planning basics 2017”