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Georgia Probate Attorney: Estate Planning to Avoid Potential Probate Disputes

As an Atlanta estate planning and probate attorney, I have had many clients who found themselves tangled up in familial discord because of the lack of proper estate planning done by their parents or other family members. The probate process can be difficult and stressful and can often result in feuds between family members if an estate is complicated or if the estate was not planned well. If you would like to know what happens in the probate process for an intestate estate (the estate of a person who died without a will), you can read my previous blog post on the matter. I discuss in this blog some ways to plan your estate and write your will so that your family can avoid lengthy probate proceedings as much as possible – and hopefully avoid conflict. One way to avoid ambiguity in your estate plan that may lead to familial conflict is to designate bank accounts which you intend to give to a specific family member as “payable on death” (POD) or “transferrable upon death” (TOD). A POD/TOD bank account pays out upon your death only to the specific person named as beneficiary on the account. This type of bank… [Read More]

Atlanta Guardianship Attorney: Guardians and Conservators Serve Different Purposes

As an Atlanta guardianship attorney, I speak with a lot of people who are confused by Georgia’s guardianship and conservatorship laws and the difference in the roles between a guardian and a conservator.  Before distinguishing those roles, it will be helpful to explain why a guardianship or conservatorship may be needed. Generally, there are three circumstances in which a person needs a guardian and/or conservator: (1) a minor is no longer under the care of either of his or her parents (a/k/a natural guardians), (2) a minor is due a payment from a financial institution (e.g., life insurance proceeds, retirement plan beneficiary distribution, etc.) whether or not under the care of his or her parents, and (3) an adult becomes incapacitated to the extent that he or she cannot perform routine daily functions (e.g., cooking, bathing, paying bills, and balancing a check book) without help.  In any of those circumstances, an interested party can petition the probate court of the county in which the minor or incapacitated adult (referred to as the “ward”) lives for the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator. A guardian is a person appointed to look after the “person” of the ward.  In other words, a… [Read More]

Georgia Administrators and Annual Returns – What’s in a Waiver? Part II

A Georgia estate attorney naturally is asked a lot of questions about the obligations of personal representatives.  In my previous blog post, I addressed the personal representative’s obligation to file an inventory and annual returns with the probate court, the ability of the heirs or a Will to waive those obligations, and the confusion created by the applicable Georgia statutes.  In this part, I explain that, despite waivers in a Will or by the heirs, the personal representative is almost always obligated to report to the heirs at least annually. As I wrote in my previous post, O.C.G.A. § 53-7-68 and 53-7-69 provide for a waiver of the personal representative’s requirement to provide annual returns to either the heirs or the court, or both.  I also noted there that similar statutes apply to inventories but may actually waive the inventory obligation entirely.  Therefore, it is possible for a personal representative to avoid the obligation of providing any information to the heirs.  But as a practical matter, I rarely see a Will waive an executor’s obligation to report to the heirs, and I never see heirs waive the same.  The language of a waiver in a Will is almost always restricted… [Read More]

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