In my estate law firm practice in Atlanta, Georgia, I have seen the negative impact on many probate cases when financial instruments and valuable assets are set up to provide convenience for the primary owner. It is important to take proper care not only when setting up joint bank accounts, but also when assigning joint owners or beneficiaries to IRAs, 401(k)s, life insurance policies and real estate. Failure to correctly assign joint account holders to any asset or financial instrument under the counsel of a qualified estate attorney may result in disputes during probate proceedings. Setting up these instruments should be part of a sound estate administration plan. Likewise, if a dispute arises, you should retain an experienced Georgia probate law firm to represent you in any Georgia probate and estate litigation lawsuits concerning jointly titled assets.
Because jointly owned bank accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, life insurance policies and real estate with a right to survivorship are considered non-probate assets, ownership of these assets is straightforward. As non-probate assets they are typically transferred directly to a joint owner or beneficiary and do not need to be distributed through the probate process when the primary owner dies. The problem arises when, in probate proceedings, heirs and beneficiaries disagree on how these assets were originally set up and what the deceased’s true intentions were, upon death, regarding the distribution of these assets.
Just as in the case of joint bank accounts, other assets can be set up where the primary and joint owner’s names are linked by the words “and” or “or.” The difference between these two designations is critical. Both account holders need to sign for all transactions when assets are set up with the “and” designation. When “or” is used, the asset can be manipulated independently by either party. Upon death, all assets will transfer to the joint holder when “or” is used and half of the assets will pass to the joint holder when “and” is used. Under Georgia probate law, when one of the joint owners dies, it is important to have the designation assigned that indicates the true intention of the relationship.
Many of these assets and financial instruments are originally set up with a joint owner or beneficiary for the sake of convenience, and it is not uncommon for heirs and beneficiaries to challenge the ownership of these assets during probate proceedings. An experienced Atlanta probate litigation law firm can represent you in fighting to acquire your inheritance as the decedent truly intended. Similarly, an experienced Atlanta probate attorney can create an estate administration plan that clearly states your true intention, so that your wishes are fulfilled and your heirs and beneficiaries receive the treatment that you desire.
Our Georgia estate Law Firm can assist you in fighting for your inheritance despite any mistakes made on the titling of joint account assets. Our Atlanta probate lawyers will assist you in creating an effective estate administration plan that reflects your true intentions. The Libby Law Firm has its Main Office conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia near the intersection of Piedmont and Roswell Roads. You can also meet with one of our Atlanta probate lawyers in our Law Firm’s Marietta, Georgia Office. Please feel free to call our Atlanta probate Law Firm at (404) 467-8611, the Marietta, Georgia location at (770) 952-1008, to discuss all of your estate or probate needs. You can also send us a message through our confidential Web Site form.