Articles Posted in PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION DISPUTES & LITIGATION

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As an Atlanta, Georgia probate dispute lawyer, I know a personal representative who “steals” or “defrauds” an estate, or otherwise behaves dishonestly, is a nightmare for a grieving family, the beneficiaries, and heirs. Unfortunately, I have seen in my Atlanta probate law firm practice, this occurs more than you might think. Inexperience with the legal and financial duties of a personal representative can lead to mistakes that have very bad results for the estate and its heirs or beneficiaries. In other cases, because executors and administrators are frequently family members or close friends of the person who died (decedent), they may have emotional or financial reasons for not being completely genuine. Or, they may have fallen on tough times and just think nobody is watching and no real harm will be done by “stealing” a “little bit” here and there.

Fortunately, Georgia fiduciary law allows you several ways to deal with a personal representative who is not meeting his or her duties, being dishonest or otherwise engaging in self-dealing. If you know ahead of time that the personal representative is not trustworthy, you may file a caveat — a probate law term for a formal objection — to that person’s role as personal representative. As a Georgia probate litigation lawyer engaged in will contests and probate disputes, I vastly prefer to take steps long before this stage, to minimize the costs to my client from both fraud and legal fees. Nevertheless, it is often not until the probate process is underway that heirs and beneficiaries realize that there are problems.

For that reason, the law also allows them to formally sue a dishonest personal representative for breach of fiduciary duty — that is, breach of the duty to act wisely and legally with another person’s money. In fact, you can file this type of claim when the personal representative has merely threatened to breach that duty, as well as when you have positive evidence that he or she has breached it. If you can prove your claim, you can ask a court to order one or more of the following remedies:

• Stop a threatened breach of fiduciary duty • Remove the personal representative • Replace the personal representative
• Compel the personal representative to do his or her duties • Reduce or deny payment to the personal representative • Have the personal representative pay back money stolen or lost because of a breach of fiduciary duty • Compel damage payments (compensation for the petitioner’s losses) from the executor or administrator (personal representative)
• Money or property given to the wrong beneficiary may also be placed in trust by the court while it works out the proper ownership.
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While we focus on Obama Care, health care reform, and whether social security will stay properly funded to keep up with payouts to the ever-increasing elderly retirees, it seems the financial abuse of the elderly and incapacitated has reached new highs. Most Atlanta, Georgia estate lawyers agree that in “looting the estate situations”, Adult Protective Services is not a preliminary answer, but can be of great service in many instances once the financial abuse is uncovered. The answer to this problem is action by you, the family and friends of the financially abused elderly and/or incapacitated persons.

Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyers should not only represent clients in Georgia probate cases after a loved one passes, but should be ready to intervene and stop the financial abuse of loved and/or incapacitated persons before they pass if they are the subject of looting, theft, elder financial abuse, etc. I have termed it “looting of the estate” is some instances even though the elderly person has not passed, and an estate has not yet been created. I believe that Greenway v. Hamilton is one remedy, but I think what is better is to catch the thieves during the life of the elderly and/or incapacitated and hopefully before too much money/assets have been stolen. These thieves are abundant and as easily found as your closest family member.

Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyers oftentimes practice Georgia probate law, but also work in estate administration, estate litigation, Georgia guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, and misuse/abuse of powers of attorney and just plain conversion of assets taken from the elderly and/or incapacitated. It seems lately I have noticed a disturbing trend and I want to be outspoken about it so that you, the reader and be on the lookout for financial elder abuse. It takes many forms, and usually is carried out by someone who is close to the loved one. I hope that more attorneys will look to GREENWAY v. HAMILTON. GREENWAY v. HAMILTON et al. No. S06A0050. JUNE 26, 2006, to bring many of these “thieves” to justice. I also help it will raise awareness of what may be happening will our loved ones try to enjoy their last years. Frankly, what I see happening more and more often is quite disturbing. That being theft from the elderly using powers of attorney, looting, conversion, undue influence for gain, and more.

This is in every way shape and for, FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE and must be stopped! Here are some of the forms this looting of elderly assets takes place:

• Using a power of attorney to control assets of an elderly and/or incapacitated person, but use their monies for other purposes than the health, care, welfare, and well-being of the elderly and/or incapacitated person.

• Using monies of an elderly and/or incapacitated person for their own purposes and not for the caretaking of the elderly and/or incapacitated person. Oftentimes, the elderly and/or incapacitated person can do little to stop these thieves or do not understand the scam that is being perpetrated on them. Many factors contribute to this. Mostly is the lack of capacity elderly or incapacitated person suffer from prevents them from understanding what is happening.

Looting a loved one’s estate is a serious legal matter and one that should not be taken lightly. While using your influence to affect the estate and the will are one thing, deliberately forging documents or ignoring a will and testament’s wishes is another. While both are against the law, looting the estate is significantly more heinous and carries federal penalties, as well as, civil penalties.

When a person is ill or too incapacitated to care for him or herself, they depend upon the kindness and care of others to help them in their final years. Unfortunately, many people prey on these individuals and take advantage of them during this time. When a person deliberately ignores his loved one’s wishes as laid out in their last will and testament and disposes of the money and estate for their own personal gain, then they may be guilty of looting the estate.

If you are the heir to an estate, it is important to pay attention to the things that are going on throughout your loved one’s life. Make sure you regularly visit and remind your loved one to show you all documents BEFORE he or she signs them. If there is a will and testament already in place, make sure your loved one knows not to make any changes before consulting with you and your family. In addition to talking to your loved one, you should also talk to family members and other heirs to ensure that everyone involved agrees about your loved one’s care and treatment.
If you or someone in your family believes that your loved one may be the victim of estate looting or undue influence, it is important to contact an Atlanta probate and estate dispute attorney immediately. Your Atlanta, Georgia estate attorney can help you ensure that your loved one’s estate is protected from all types of fraud, looting, and greed.

CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY UPON FINDING THEFT OF WOULD BE ESTATE ASSETS FROM THE ELDERLY AND/OR INCAPACITATED – The Libby Law Firm ATLANTA PROBATE ATTORNEYS, GEORGIA ELDER ABUSE LAWYER, ATLANTA, GEORGIA ESTATE AND GUARDIANSHIP LAWYERS – MAIN OFFICE IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA-BUCKHEAD NUMBER: (404) 467-8611. You may also choose to use our “CONFIDENTIAL CONTACT US FORM

If you feel you or your loved one is the victim of “looting of the estate”, immediately contact the Atlanta, Georgia estate lawyers at The Libby Law Firm. Our experienced Atlanta estate lawyers can stop the looting of the estate. Our Atlanta, Georgia estate attorneys have a number of methods. Most notably is bringing the looting or stealing of what will be estate assets to the attention of those carrying out this egregious act. This is conversion and is stealing, theft by taking, and/or conversion anyway you portray it.
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The Atlanta lawyers at The Libby Law Firm are experienced in defending clients in disputes over the provisions of wills and administration of estate assets. Parties that can be defended in a will contest include the estate, beneficiaries, heirs or personal representatives. But it is usually heirs or beneficiaries who challenge a will, especially if they are slated to receive less from the estate than what they had originally anticipated. Once notice of the death or petition to begin probate proceedings is served, any parties interested in filing a will contest may come forward. The Libby Law Firm files Georgia Will Contests Caveat Petitions and just as often, their Atlanta Office defends Will Contests. As such, whatever role we engage on behalf of our client in will contest litigation, you can be assured, we know what opposing counsel is thinking and what their objectives are. Oftentimes, our Atlanta, Georgia will contest defense lawyers use tactics such as mediation, enhanced discovery, to catch opposing counsel of guard and to throw the theory of their case off balance, oftentimes, making them start over or think again about whether contesting the will in question.

Many conditions can provoke a Georgia will contest, including:

• The Testator’s Mental Capacity – if the deceased was not considered to be of sound mind and body when the will was executed

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Yes, I am an Atlanta, Georgia, Probate Attorney, but also a consumer. As such, I want you to consider a simple task like buying a cell phone. You ask your friends for advice, read reviews online, ask experts for recommendations, and then make the purchase. My question is, if you make such well-informed decisions for something as menial as buying a cell phone, while hiring an attorney in Georgia, do you do the same? I am sure most of you would respond negatively to that. Well, let me tell you then what important things you should have in mind if you are planning to hire an Estate Litigation Lawyer in Georgia. I want you to make a well-informed decision, as legal services are costly, much more costly than upgrading your $200 or $400 iPhone early.

Ideal Qualities of an Atlanta Will Contest, Estate, and Probate Litigation Lawyer in North Georgia

• In case you are need of services of a Probate Lawyer in Georgia, the first thing you should do is to conduct some background research on the legal professional you are going to hire. Statistics suggest that usually the most advertised lawyers are the ones who are hired. So what is wrong with that? Well, no doubt, these lawyers are well advertised, but once you hire such a lawyer, your case is usually handled by some other Atlanta Attorney in Georgia. And, if you are wondering why this is so, the answer is, the Atlanta, Georgia Probate Lawyer you initially contacted is making money just by referring you to some lawyer whom you know nothing about. You may even not know if the referred lawyer in Georgia is competent enough to handle your case and whether your case is his specialty. My suggestion is, hire someone who specializes in the specific practice areas and does not refer you to someone else.

• Another important factor that cannot be overlooked under any circumstances is education. Top law schools are difficult to get into, and those who are educated at top law schools usually are better lawyers since they have been tested by outstanding lawyers themselves, with the knowledge on how to prepare for sizeable cases. Thus, you should or could ask where this lawyer was educated. Of course, this is not everything; a lawyer from the finest school(s) who seems unmotivated or uninterested could have a weak work ethic, among other things. This is an important factor to contemplate.

• The third most important factor to be taken into consideration is experience. Becoming qualified by acquiring education is one thing, but applying that knowledge in the real world to derive results is more important. The more experience your lawyer has, the chances of you winning the case becomes higher. The logic is, an experienced lawyer has gone through numerous critical situations in courtrooms. With experience, she will draw inferences from earlier cases to make your case stronger. Now the experience should not be limited to litigation. The lawyer you are hiring in Georgia should have actual trial experience. In addition, do not forget to ask what their success rate is. If you happen to be their first case, you should study their sharpness and ability to communicate, among other facets.

• Though this factor is last, in no way it should be treated as the least important. In very simple words, hire a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable with; like him and trust him. If you receive negative vibes, or just are not sure, find someone else. But under no circumstances should you hire a lawyer in Georgia who is not cordial and does not know how to listen. Your lawyer should raise your confidence level and not the other way round.

Information to Follow Accordingly in Hiring an Atlanta, Georgia Probate Lawyer
Armed with this knowledge, the chances of you hiring a winning lawyer in Georgia has just been magnified.

At The Libby Law Firm, , you will find attorneys who exemplify what you should be looking for in a law firm. In addition to having superior academic credentials and real-world legal experience, our business attorneys are innovative and think both inside and outside the box. In addition to providing high-caliber legal representation, our firm works to keep the cost of our legal services affordable. Above all, we work hard to help you meet your goals in a focused range of legal practice areas.

At The Libby Law Firm, you will find attorneys who exemplify what you should be looking for in a law firm. In addition to having superior academic credentials and real-world legal experience, our business attorneys are innovative and think both inside and outside the box.

In addition to providing high-caliber legal representation, our firm works to keep the cost of our legal services affordable. Above all, we work hard to help you meet your goals in a focused range of legal practice areas.
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In my Atlanta, Georgia Probate Law practice, I counsel many clients on the procedures that Georgia’s probate law dictates. Heirs and beneficiaries frequently ask questions about the duties of personal representatives in the probate process. A personal representative is either named in the will as an executor (and usually called an executor as opposed to a personal representative), or appointed by the court as an administrator. An administrator is appointed when no will exists, if an executor was not named in the will, or in the case that the named executor is unfit to serve. Personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to perform the required tasks of probate in a way that treats heirs and beneficiaries fairly. Nevertheless, personal representatives are almost always referred to as an executor or administrator. In short, an executor or administrator is a personal representative and the Official Code of Georgia gives them this title. What is more, is that personal representatives must give an inventory and/or accounting to heirs or beneficiaries who have a legitimate concern or reason to know about the estates assets.

However, as a Georgia Probate, Wills, Trusts, and Estates Lawyer, what is problematic to me when it comes to an executor or administrator, is that there are so many situations where the heirs or beneficiaries do not hire a lawyer and demand an inventory or accounting merely because the Will or Letters of Administration state that the executor, administrator, or personal representative is relieved from performing this duty.

GEORGIA PROBATE LAW HOLDS THAT DESPITE WHAT THE WILL, LETTERS TESTAMENTARY, OR LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION STATE WITH REGARDS TO GIVING AN INVENTORY OR ACCOUNTING, IS THAT AN EXECUTOR, ADMINISTRATOR, OR PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE, MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNTING IF AN HEIR OR BENEFICIARY PROPERLY DEMANDS ONE.

The general list of tasks of Georgia personal representatives includes taking control of the estate’s assets, paying off the estate’s debts and administration expenses, selling estate assets to pay debts and expenses (or to distribute assets more efficiently), filing tax returns on behalf of the estate, distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs, filing any required reports (including an inventory and accounting), and applying for discharge from office. The first step of taking control of the estate’s assets is critical. In this step, the personal representative must identify, locate, and value the estate’s assets. Without this information, no determination can be made regarding how to distribute the estate and the probate process would stall.

During the stressful time surrounding the death of a loved one, friend, or business associate, it is common to lack the focus necessary to deal with probate proceedings. Under stress, beneficiaries and heirs may sign documentation without the proper legal review, which can cause them to waive certain rights. The right to an inventory and accounting of estate assets is one of the rights that is sometimes waived unknowingly.
Even when a personal representative succeeds in getting an heir or beneficiary to sign a waiver that forfeits their right to an inventory and accounting, it is important to know that the waiver can be renounced afterward and an inventory and accounting can be demanded. Once you have waived this right, it is important to retain an Atlanta Probate Lawyer to assist you in acquiring an inventory and accounting that is true, accurate, and complete.

To renounce this type of waiver, an experienced Georgia probate attorney can assist in filing a petition for inventory and accounting that forces the personal representative to release this information. Another way that heirs and beneficiaries are left out during the probate process is through the instructions given in the will. Sometimes wills state that the executor is not required to give an inventory and accounting to heirs and beneficiaries. While this may be included in some wills as a result of undue influence over the testator by a third party, heirs, and beneficiaries do have rights under Georgia law to protect against this type of self-dealing. Again, a petition for inventory and accounting can be filed that will give the heirs and beneficiaries access to the asset information.
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As an Atlanta Lawyer that practices Atlanta (Fulton County) Probate Litigation, I see many clients who need guidance in the complicated area of probate proceedings. Because the death of a family member is such an emotional and difficult time for all involved, it is important to have legal safeguards in place that not only protect heirs and beneficiaries during this delicate period, but that also protect executors and administrators. When a will exists and an executor has been named in the will, it is not uncommon for conflicts to develop between the executor and the heirs and beneficiaries. When there is no will, it is also possible for conflicts to emerge between the administrator and the heirs. Both parties, those administering the estate and those inheriting the estate, can have valid legal concerns.

Even when the estate is being administered in a responsible manner, because emotions run high in these situations, heirs and beneficiaries can begin to imagine that the executor or administrator is taking advantage of the situation. And executors and administrators can feel that, despite their hard work administering the estate, they are wrongly accused of inappropriate behavior. The good news is that by inserting some legal checks and balances into the process, these situations can be avoided or, if they do occur, resolved. One example of a useful legal instrument that helps diffuse these conflicts is the petition for inventory and accounting. Even though the executor or administrator appears to have absolute power to manage the estate, that person is in fact bound by a fiduciary duty. As such, the person administering the estate is required to handle all related duties in the best interest of all parties. When the duties carried out fall under suspicion, heirs and beneficiaries can make a legally binding request for an inventory and accounting of all estate assets. It is important to note that in Georgia sometimes heirs and beneficiaries waive their right to petition for inventory and accounting, but when a conflict arises they can legally renounce the waiver and the petition can move forward.

In some cases, conflicts surface when executors and administrators can have difficulty providing an inventory of assets in a timely manner. It is precisely this situation that can make it seem that there is an abuse of power on their part. But there are instances that can cause undue skepticism and one of these is when estate assets fall into categories that are difficult to identify. One type of asset that can prove very difficult to discern is intellectual property, such as artistic works, inventions or patents. For this reason it is important to retain the service of an experienced and qualified probate lawyer who can assist in identifying all tangible and non-traditional assets and protect the interests of all parties involved. Whichever side you find yourself on in probate proceedings, as an executor or administrator or as an heir or beneficiary, you need to be aware of the legal options, rights and duties that apply to you and seek the support of legal counsel.
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As a probate attorney in Atlanta, Georgia (and the surrounding Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Marietta, North Georgia, and Metro Atlanta Areas), who specializes in Atlanta, Georgia, Probate Litigation, my clients frequently ask how they can avoid the Georgia probate process altogether. There are several reasons to want to sidestep probate, including speed of distribution of the assets to beneficiaries and the cost of the process, in both time and money. Privacy may be an issue as well. Probate proceedings are a matter of public record, so non-probate asset classification provides the estate and beneficiaries with anonymity. Only non-probate assets that contractually name a beneficiary can escape probate, but with a little planning many assets can be classified in this way. Common examples of non-probate assets are as follows:

Common examples of non-probate assets are tax-deferred retirement accounts, like 401(k) and IRA accounts, and proceeds from life insurance policies. Bank accounts can also be classified as non-probate assets when set up as Payment on Death Bank Accounts. The same can be done by setting up bonds, Stock and brokerage accounts as Transfer on Death Securities. Under either of these methods, the beneficiaries have no interest or access to the assets while the owner is alive and ownership of the assets is only transferred to the beneficiaries upon death. To protect real estate holdings or financial accounts, they can be set up with Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship. This structure is common between married couples and automatically transfers the assets to the survivor when one of the owners dies.

Living trusts are another effective way to circumvent the probate process. A Georgia revocable living trust allows property to transfer directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust. Once this type of trust is set up, title to the assets passes to the trustee who has the job of managing the trust during the life of the grantor. In Georgia, the grantor can also be named as the trustee. As trustee, the grantor has free access to the assets while alive and may sell, trade, buy, liquidate or donate the assets. A common misconception is that once assets are transferred into a trust, they are protected against all claims from creditors. Yet, because the assets are under the total control of the grantor, the trust does not stop creditors from pursuing the assets. Nevertheless, it is more difficult for assets to be taken from a trust, as creditors in Georgia must file a petition in court to do so. Another advantage of Georgia revocable living trusts is that the grantor can change the terms of the trust or reclaim title to the property at any time. Upon the death of the grantor, a successor trustee distributes the property directly to the beneficiaries after death of the grantor.
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As an Atlanta Lawyers; Especially Atlanta Will Challenge Lawyers, I have seen the number of cases on the rise. As an Atlanta, Georgia Probate Litigation lawyer, I have represented many clients in different types of will contests. Especially common are the cases that involve undue influence in the writing of wills. When undue influence is found to have played a role in the writing of the will, then the court can determine that the will is null and void.

Undue influence occurs when an act takes place that overcomes the victim’s free will. Undue influence is most likely when there is a confidential relationship between those involved and when one of the parties is of greater mental capacity. The confidential nature of the relationship and ability of one party to exert influence over the other party due to a superior intellect are the key factors that allow the manipulation to go unnoticed.

Many cases of undue influence occur between parents and children. When a close relationship exists between one child and the parent, it is possible for the child to manipulate the parent into signing a Georgia will that favors that particular child. It is also possible for the influence to come from outside the family, for example from a hired caregiver who spends large amounts of time with the elderly person.

When faced with a case of undue influence regarding a will, the Georgia probate court will examine the mental state of the deceased at the time that the will was executed. Evidence of mental or physical coercion is required. Because direct evidence is difficult to collect (since the victim is deceased), the courts will rely on circumstantial evidence for proof. The court will try to determine if:

1) the decedent was easily influenced, due to age, health or general mental state

2) the person suspected of undue influence had an opportunity to coerce or manipulate the victim

3) the person suspected of undue influence had the motive or disposition to influence the victim

4) the person suspected of undue influence was actively involved in creating the will

5) the will appears to have been influenced


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As an Atlanta, Georgia Guardianship and Conservaorship Lawyer, I want to emphasize the importance of evaluating a Georgia Probate Courts’ Guardianship and Conservatorship Requirements in determining if a proposed Georgia Guardian and/or Conservator is a suitable to act in the Best Interests of a proposed ward.

Under Georgia Law, to serve as a Georgia Probate Court Appointed Guardian and/or Conservator of a Proposed Ward, such person must have the following qualifications:

1. Over the age of 18 years of age;
2. A Georgia resident; or a non-resident who is:

(a) related by lineal consanguinity to the ward;
(b) a legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the ward;
(c) a spouse, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew of the ward, or someone elated by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
(d) the spouse of a person otherwise qualified above; and

3. Having been convicted of a felony usually precludes you from being a guardian in Georgia. However, new trends allow the judge to evaluate the felony and its circumstances to determine whether the proposed guardian would do a good job in caring for the ward. By example, a felony conviction for marijuana possession a long time ago may be looked upon by the Georgia County Probate Judge as a learning lesson. And, since it did not involve stealing (or another crime of moral turpitude), then the proposed guardian may be determined by the Georgia County Probate Court to be a safe person and able to care for the ward in a high-quality manner. Lastly, this is true if the guardian and ward are closely related and/or have a close, respectful, and honest relationship.

Moreover, a Georgia county probate judge may give a felon who petitions the court to be guardian of the ward if they are related. This new trend shows the County Probate Judge’s discretion in finding a qualified person to take care of the ward.

A Petition for appointment of a Georgia guardian and/or Conservator for the proposed ward will be filed with the GA County Probate Court in which the proposed ward is domiciled. This Petition requires either two Petitioners to sign the document or one Petitioner and the completed affidavit of a physician or psychologist licensed to practice in Georgia or a licensed clinical social worker, who has examined the proposed ward within 15 (fifteen) days prior to the filing of the Petition. In, Georgia, unless the alleged incapacitated person is indigent, the Petition must submit with a check to the GA County Clerk of Court for the filing fees. The filing fees vary slightly per each separate GA County Probate Court.

Upon the filing of the Petition, the GA Probate Court will decide whether it finds grounds to accept or deny the Petition. If the Petition is denied, the GA Probate court will dismiss the Petition. If the Petition is accepted, the Georgia Probate Court will instruct the proposed ward be served by the GA County Sheriff’s Department with a copy of the Petition, a Notice to Proposed Ward of Proceedings to Appoint a Guardian and/or Conservator, a copy of a Notice of Attorney or Guardian ad Litem that has been appointed to represent the proposed ward. Additionally, if no evaluation has been done, the GA Probate Court will order and evaluation wherein a date, time, and place for the proposed ward to meet, and be examined, by court appointed physician or psychologist licensed to practice in Georgia or a licensed clinical social worker. Following the evaluation, a written report will be filed with the court and an Order and Notice of Hearing will be issued. At the hearing, the Probate Court Judge or an Administrative Judge appointed by the GA Probate Court will conduct a formal and confidential hearing and listen to all interested parties and make a determination whether the proposed ward lacks sufficient capacity to make or communicate significant responsible decisions concerning his/her health or safety and/or financial matters.

If the proposed ward is declared “incompetent,” some or all of his or her rights are taken away from him or her and a Guardian and/or Conservator is appointed. A guardian is usually a family member; however, there are professional guardians who perform the duties of a Guardian for several different wards and usually charge an annual fee for their services. The court will issue Letters of Guardianship to the guardian, which serves as his or her court appointed authority to make decisions on the ward’s behalf. The guardian is answerable to the court and must file an initial plan profiling his or her plan for the ward’s care and each year on the anniversary of the issuance of the guardians Letters of Guardianship, he or she must file an annual plan with the GA Probate court.

Any person who is thinking about becoming a Guardian and/or Conservator should engage the services of an experienced Georgia Guardianship and Conservatorship lawyer to guide them through the complicated process of establishing a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship in GA and comply with the preparation of the annual reports due to the GA County Probate Court regarding the well-being of the ward. In addition, any person who has issue with, or who wishes to contest the Petition of a Guardian and/or Conservator for a proposed ward should contact an experienced GA probate attorney. This is also true for the proposed ward as it is can be the case that the proposed ward does not feel they need to have their rights taken away from them and wish to contest these matters themselves. Moreover, it is oftentimes the case that persons will establish a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship over a proposed ward to gain access to the proposed ward’s assets. Moreover, it is often the case that the Guardian and/or Conservator does not have the best interest of the proposed ward in mind and such Petition should be contested.
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Atlanta Attorneys know there are many tools that can be used to facilitate the transfer of assets in an estate plan. Holding property jointly (in two or more names) is one method that has advantages and disadvantages. Joint ownership of real estate, bank accounts, and other property is common because assets owned jointly with rights of survivorship do not become assets of the decedent’s estate. These assets do not pass through probate to be distributed but are transferred by operation of Georgia law and automatically pass outside of the decedent’s estate to the surviving owner(s). When joint owners are spouses, this set up can be ideal. Because there is no delay in the transfer of property under joint ownership, the surviving owner can immediately take control of the property. This is especially useful if access to the property is urgent, time-sensitive, or when financial issues need to be resolved immediately upon the death of the decedent joint owner.

Joint ownership does have its downsides and should be carefully considered before being implemented in any inter vivos circumstances or estate plan. For instance, one scenario where it can be unwise to set up property ownership jointly is when a parent and child are named as joint owners. Problems can arise if the parent has other children who are not included in the joint ownership of the property or the child involved in the joint ownership is financially unstable. With multiple siblings, even if the Georgia will specifies that the joint property should be divided evenly between all of the children, the joint ownership property is not part of the estate. Thus, the surviving owner is not obligated to split the property and distribute it per the Georgia will. This is because the joint property transfers to the surviving owner(s) by operation of law. Thus, the property never becomes part of the estate and therefore is not subject to the laws of intestacy or distribution per the terms of the Georgia will. Also, if the joint owner is a child with financial issues, the parent can lose the property if the child’s creditors endeavor to collect outstanding debts. The child’s joint ownership interest can also be threatened if the parent has financial issues, which cause the parent to declare bankruptcy. This can oftentimes be the case if the parent has significant medical expenses or other expenses associated with growing older and not having earned income.

A Georgia Estate Planning attorney can provide other alternatives to placing property in joint ownership. One good alternative is to draft an effective estate plan that specifies how the property will be divided under a number of possible scenarios. Without a crystal ball we cannot foresee which scenarios are most likely, but they can include illness, remarriage of a spouse, bankruptcy, etc. With such variability, it is prudent to draft a detailed estate plan that can factor in multiple circumstances. Such an estate plan is especially effective for larger estates or in situations where a dispute between heirs and/or beneficiaries may be inevitable. Estate planning under such scenarios often involves the use of revocable and irrevocable trusts and annual gifting. Implementing these types of estate planning vehicles can be complicated and it is necessary to have an experienced estate planning attorney assist you.
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