In Georgia, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you really want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for really implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these goals.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your choice on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such choices for you, if you are unable.
A reliable estate planner in Georgia may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Additionally, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Georgia
Estate plans in Georgia almost always have these features:
Will: A will allows you to control what is done with your property after your death. You can typically give your property to whoever you want, and make these gifts conditional. However, a will can only control another person's behavior insofar as placing conditions on gifts ("you don't get this money unless you spend the night in a haunted house"). The beneficiary doesn't HAVE to do anything if they don't want to, and are willing to surrender the money or property you left them.
Power of Attorney: Sometimes, people fear that they may become incapacitated (because of injury, illness, or mental deterioration), and that they won't be able to make their own decisions. Luckily, if you want, you can grant a family member or close friend (or someone else you absolutely trust) legal authority to make essential decisions for you, if you are ever incapacitated. This is known as "power of attorney."
Funeral Arrangements: The determination of what should be done with your body after you die is a very personal one. If you have a preference on this, for religious, or other, reasons, you should discuss this with a family member in advance. You should further put your wishes in writing, but you should not put it ONLY in a will; wills aren't always read immediately after the person who wrote it died. Sometimes, weeks, or even months, go by before the will is read. Obviously, by then it will almost certainly be too late to implement your wishes.
Do I Need a Georgia Estate Planning Attorney?
Because these decisions are so crucial in Georgia, it's almost never a bad idea to seek the counsel of an accomplished wills, trusts, and estates attorney.
Interesting Facts About Georgia
Georgia is the last of the 13 original colonies and the fourth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. A prominent southern state, Georgia is known for its culture of "southern hospitality". Georgia has nearly 160 counties, the second most for any state in the U.S. It is has of the fastest-growing economies and the 9th largest population in America.
Georgia is nicknamed "The Peach State". It is sometimes referred to as "The Empire State of the South", in reference to its role as an important hub for commerce and trade. Georgia's zoning laws are very unique among states, as any incorporated town or community is granted the legal status of a city. Cities and counties are granted "home rule" power, which means that they can pass legislation as any traditional municipality would.
Georgia's highest court of law is the Supreme Court of Georgia. Below the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals levels, the court system of Georgia is quite complex. There are Superior Courts, State Courts, Magistrate Courts, Municipal Courts, and many others. Each of these hears different types of legal claims. Georgia has contributed much case law in the area of capital punishment and death penalty laws, some examples being Furman v. Georgia (1972) and Coker v. Georgia (1977).
Lawyers in Georgia can provide guidance in dealing with the state's complicated web of courts. Georgia laws can also be complicated, but a Georgia lawyer can provide advice and representation in court when necessary. Georgia attorneys are often members of various civic organizations and bar associations.