The Last Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney You’ll Ever Need

Attorney Jennifer Moore and her canine ambassadors Chloe and Libby

Wills And Trusts: Warm And Friendly Guidance To Help You Protect Your Assets

Wills and trusts are the most basic estate planning tools you may need to protect your hard-earned assets. Everyone needs a will or trust, especially if they have significant assets to protect and distribute.

At the Macon-based law firm of Jen Haskins Law, LLC, I provide comprehensive will and trust services to help you craft a complete and thorough asset protection plan. I have in-depth knowledge of all aspects of estate law in Georgia. For more than a decade, I have devoted my practice to helping people make informed decisions about all aspects of estate planning, including wills and trusts.

Creating A Will In Georgia

A will, or a “last will and testament,” is a legal document that specifies how you would like your property to be divided after you pass away. If you do not have a valid will when you die, your property will be distributed by default to your surviving relatives, beginning with your spouse and children.

You can use a will to establish details like:

  • Your preferred distribution of assets
  • An executor who will be responsible for making sure that the terms of your will are carried out
  • A personal guardian to care for your minor children;
  • A trusted person to manage the property you leave to your minor children.

You may also want to specify anyone you would like to exclude from your will in order to clear up any potential complications that may arise.

Does A Will Have To Be Notarized?

A valid, legally enforceable will in Georgia must be in writing and signed by you and two witnesses who are not beneficiaries. A will does not need to be notarized, though doing so can make your will “self-proving” and speed up the probate court process.

How To Revoke A Will

You can revoke your will at any point by destroying the document or instructing someone to destroy it. To make a change, you can either revoke and rewrite the will, or you can add an amendment (a “codicil”) to the end of the will.

Your Options For Trusts

Trusts are another powerful estate planning tool that can be used to distribute assets and accomplish other objectives such as asset protection. Georgia offers a wide array of trusts for different needs, including:

  • Miller trusts (also called “qualified income trusts“), which can be used for Medicaid eligibility
  • Living trusts, both revocable and irrevocable, which can avoid probate
  • Irrevocable trusts, which can reduce your estate tax burden
  • Life insurance trusts, which offer several advantages
  • Charitable trusts to benefit the organizations or causes of your choosing

I can advise you on which trusts will best suit your needs and goals.

Should You Use A Will Or A Trust?

Wills and trusts are both valuable estate planning tools. You do not need to choose one over the other. Oftentimes, it makes sense for an estate plan to include both.

There are several advantages to using a will in your estate plan. A will allows you to:

  • Designate heirs and beneficiaries for assets, including real property
  • Name an executor of your estate
  • Name guardians for your minor children
  • Set forth your wishes for your funeral and burial

A will can also direct your named executor to create a trust and appoint a trustee to manage that trust. The terms of a will do not go into effect until death. In the alternative, the terms of a trust can go into effect whenever assets are transferred into them. The exact terms and advantages of a trust will depend on which type of trust it is, but generally, a trust can be:

  • Created for a specific purpose
  • Revoked or changed (if the terms of the trust allow it to be)
  • Used to plan for disabilities or incapacities
  • Created for special needs
  • Does not need to go through probate for approval

Any estate plan can be crafted to meet your specific needs. I work closely with every client to understand their wishes and needs. Once we evaluate your assets and identify your legal goals, I will be able to recommend different options. Together, we will evaluate the different estate planning tools and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of including each in your estate plan.

The Risks And Limitations Of Do-It-Yourself Wills

With the internet, there is easy access to standard legal form documents and do-it-yourself (DIY) wills. Sometimes, these DIY documents are even free. Sometimes, there is a small fee to download a standard will. Oftentimes, these services will claim to be as good as using an attorney. However, using a DIY will or estate planning document can completely backfire. There are several risks involved with using a DIY will or estate planning document, including:

  • There are laws specific to each state. A DIY will might not take state-specific laws into account.
  • It’s often not possible to customize a DIY document, which makes it difficult to make sure it incorporates everything you need it to do.
  • Mistakes in the form itself, or mistakes in filling out a DIY legal document can cause the court to declare your will to be invalid.

Unfortunately, you won’t ever know that there was a problem with your will. Any potential issues will be passed on to your heirs when they try to adjudicate your estate through the probate process. This can create extra costs and even additional legal fees as they attempt to sort everything out.

Put The Right Will And Trust Into Place

A solid estate plan – including a will and trust, if appropriate – can go a long way toward giving you peace of mind. I would be honored to help you put the right tools into place.

To learn more about working with me, please contact me online or by phone at 478-200-2232.