January 5, 2019

by Dawn Levine

Estate Planning/Probate Myths and the Mayhem They Cause


Here is the first installment in a series.   
Myth number 1 -You should leave disinherited people a dollar (or $10 or $100).  It is permissible to disinherit people in Georgia without leaving them a dollar.  The key is to make sure you have mentioned them.  If they are not mentioned at all then they can make the argument that you (or your attorney) just forgot to include them.  Mentioning them but leaving them nothing is better than giving them a dollar.  Leaving disinherited family members a dollar makes them beneficiaries of your estate.  Under Georgia law beneficiaries have all sorts of rights and protections that you  probably would not intend for someone you would only leave a dollar.  Leaving someone a dollar is likely to insult them.  In turn this may backfire and inspire them to use those beneficiary rights to harass and make mischief.  If you truly want to leave someone a token amount it is possible but, there is a strategy to it.  You must leave them enough that they don't want to risk losing it and you must couple it with a no-contest clause.  See an attorney whose main practice is drafting Wills if you wish to leave someone out. Mistakes like this can cause tens of thousands of dollars and wipe out a modest estate with legal bills. 


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January 30, 2019

by Dawn Levine


Here is the next installment of Estate Planning/Probate Myths and the Mayhem They Cause

Jointly owned real estate goes automatically to your husband/wife.  It is possible for jointly held property to go automatically to a spouse in Georgia.  However, that is not the default rule here. The default rule in Georgia is that a joint property owner can leave their portion to whomever they wish (with some exceptions.)  It is possible to opt into having property go automatically to the joint owner but, the deed must be structured to do this.  This causes lots of problems because it is often not discovered until one or both spouses have passed away.  Many husbands and wives in Georgia mistakenly believe that the house passes automatically to the surviving husband or wife.  With some frequency when one passes away, the surviving spouse takes no action (because they didn't know they needed to do anything).  Then, when the second spouse passes away, the children are left with a mess. The children must open estates for both mom and dad.  Unfortunately, this is often not discovered until the property is already under contract for sale, sometimes not until everyone is at the closing table.  Trying to get probate to go fast enough to salvage the sale is very stressful and often fails. It is important to meet with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your assets are arranged the way you think.  If you have already lost a spouse (or parent) and no one conculted an attorney, consult with a probate attorney now to see if probate is necessary before a potential sale is in the balance.