Articles Posted in TAXATION & TAX PLANNING

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Our Atlanta, Georgia estate law firm uses multiple vehicles when creating and an estate plan. One common estate planning tool involves joint ownership of an asset. Joint ownership of property means legal title is in two or more names. Generally this means upon the death of one legal owner, the property passes by operation of law to the other legal owner. Sometimes this type of ownership makes a lot of sense. For example, a husband and wife own their home in joint names. Upon the death of the first spouse, the home passes by operation of law to the surviving spouse.

There is no probate for most jointly owned property. There is no court involvement in the surviving joint owner assuming full legal title to the jointly owned property. Again, many times this is exactly what the decedent wants and the survivor has no probate concerns.

The lack of probate and the ease of property transfer are among the reasons a mother or father frequently add a child’s name to the mother’s or father’s bank account. But remember upon death the bank account, certificate of deposit or whatever property is held in joint names with a child transfers by operation of law to that child alone.

I’ve seen many surviving spouses name their children as equal beneficiaries in their will, but then put most if not all of their assets in joint names with just one child. Guess what happens on death? Despite the will directing that all the children share equally in the assets, there are no assets in the probate estate upon which the will operates to pass legal title. Instead, all the assets pass by operation of law solely to the child who is named as a joint owner.

Joint ownership can be a trap if you’re not careful and that is why the engagement of an estate planning attorney is essential to eliminate the many traps that you can fall into. In Atlanta, GA The Libby Law Firm crafts each estate plan with the individual in mind setting our goals for the minimum amount of probate and expense with the maximum amount of client satisfaction.
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Living trusts have become popular in Georgia in the last several years as an estate planning alternative to conventional wills. They are frequently touted as a way to avoid the Georgia probate courts, which are sometimes criticized as expensive and slow to resolve estates. While I believe the probate process doesn’t have to be those things, I am also happy to set up living trusts when they make sense for my clients.

Unlike a will, a living trust isn’t a legal document in which you simply write down your wishes. A trust is a legal structure like a corporation or a partnership. After you create it, you can transfer your assets — your home, bank accounts and other property — into the trust and then specify who is to receive them after you die. This legal trick allows you to take all of your assets out of your own name while keeping them under your control. Because probate only applies to property held in your own name, you can avoid a probate case in this way.

People who set up living trusts generally name themselves as the sole trustee in charge of the trust, or name their spouses as co-trustees, although they can name any adult. Trustees have the legal right to manage and control the trust’s assets, so it’s important to name trustworthy people. You can also name a person or institution as a successor trustee to manage the trust if you are incapacitated.
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