Georgia Law Blog

Common beneficiary designation mistakes and oversights

For most people being proactive about estate planning in Georgia, one of the common steps taken is to name beneficiaries. This can be an effective way to ensure specific loved ones receive assets directly and as intended. However, there are certain beneficiary designation mistakes that can just as easily cause legal headaches and family squabbles when it comes times for estate plans to go into effect.

A frequent beneficiary designation mistake people make is to not name beneficiaries for retirement accounts or life insurance policies. If no beneficiary is named, payout determinations will be based on guidelines established by the financial company or insurer. In some cases, this could mean unpleasant tax consequences. Not taking special situations into account can also create problems. For instance, assets inherited by a special needs child may make him or her ineligible for government benefits. One solution is to create a trust that's named as the beneficiary. This allows the estate creator to name a trustee to claim and manage assets for intended recipients in a way that's appropriate.

Expect the unexpected during a divorce

Georgia residents have likely heard about the divorce of Jeff Bezos. Part of the reason why this divorce garnered so much attention was the fact that Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet. As a result, a number of salacious details surrounding adultery and blackmail found their way into the headlines. However, the way that the couple handled all of these scandals and accompanying challenges serves as a good lesson for other individuals who are going through the divorce process whether it is a high-asset divorce or not.

One thing that Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife did was to expect the unexpected. In the days following the announcement of the divorce, newspapers around the world were full of articles detailing the divorce and included compromising pictures. However, the divorcing couple handled this in stride and did not allow it to impact how they went about the divorce process.

Organization releases report on 2018 exonerations

People in Georgia who have been wrongly convicted may be among those who lost a combined 1,600 years of life to incarceration in 2018 according to a study by the National Registry of Exonerations. The 151 people released in 2018 after they had been wrongfully convicted had been in prison an average of 11 years each.

In nearly half of the exonerations in 2018, the crimes for which they were convicted did not even happen. This was the case in a number of convictions in Chicago that were thrown out after a large-scale protection racket among law enforcement was discovered in which drugs were planted on people who did not pay demanded extortions. Official misconduct was an element in more than 100 of the exonerations in 2018 and in 80% of the homicide cases. In one case, in which a man was released from death row for the rape and murder of a child, experts found that there had not been sexual assault and that the child may have died from being hit by a car.

Famed pop star’s estate preparations didn’t forestall problems

We make a preliminary and quite direct point concerning estate planning on our website at the Georgia law firm of Miles Hansford & Tallant. We stress in a recent blog post that, “Depending on the state and what the heirs want, probate can take anywhere from three months to several years.”

Guess which direction the estate of famed rock-and-roll icon Tom Petty is headed?

The likelihood of joint legal custody

A divorcing parent in Georgia may seek to get custody of their children after the end of their marriage. They can seek legal custody, which gives control over the decisions about a child's religion, health care, education and other parts of their welfare. There is also residential/physical custody, which relates to where a child will spend most of their time.

For most of the 20th century, fathers who sought to obtain shared child custody after a divorce were likely to be disappointed. This is because the family courts tended to rule in the favor of the mothers, who were typically granted sole custody. However, for the last 30 years, there has been a significant change in the way the courts have been awarding child custody. Judges have been favoring mutual agreements in which shared custody is included.

The complexities of estate planning with trusts

Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died in the first part of 2019, but she revised her will as recently as September 2018. This is not unusual for a person who wants to make sure an estate plan remains current in terms of assets, family members and plans. Radziwill also had a trust document from 2017. Like Radziwill, people in Georgia should make sure they review their estate plan and keep it current.

Radziwill's family was wealthy, and her will mentions three trusts. Her mother created one for her. Radziwill's sister is the grantor on another created in 1975, for which Radziwill is the trustee along with a bank as corporate trustee. Using what is known as a "special power of appointment," Radziwill was able to direct trust principal into a trust for her daughter. The special power of appointment allows only a very limited type of control and helps preserve a trust's original purpose. A power of appointment gives unlimited control.

What to know about facial recognition technology

A retailer in Georgia could know if an individual was caught shoplifting at a store down the street or across the country. This is because facial recognition software can take a picture of a person's face and distribute it in a short period of time. While this may be helpful to those who own a business, it may not be beneficial for those who want to retain their privacy.

One of the main concerns is that there is no guideline for how accurate the software must be. This means that it could mistakenly take a picture of an individual who was merely a bystander during a burglary and declare that person to be the culprit. Another issue that has been raised is the fact that these programs are trained using pictures uploaded to social media sites without the permission of those who are in the photographs.

Solutions for boundary line disputes

We have all heard the adage “good fences make good neighbors.” Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that when neighbors agree on their boundary lines and respect each other’s property, fewer disagreements arise. It may also be true that bad fences make bad neighbors. If you are in a dispute with your neighbor regarding your property lines, you understand how important this issue can be. These disputes do have solutions, however.


Municipal law advocacy covers broad, varied terrain

Perhaps no other entity is as severely challenged as a government agency when it comes to disputes concerning legalities and liabilities.

For starters, and as duly noted in one online overview of municipal law governance and representation, the terrain is broad. It covers “a wide range of issues, including everything from police, zoning, education policies and property taxes.”

What are acceptable reasons for divorce?

Divorces, just like marriages, have legal requirements that must be met before they are granted. In Georgia, one of the requirements for divorce is that there must be a legally valid reason, called a ground, for divorce.

If you are considering ending your marriage, it can be helpful to understand the grounds Georgia recognizes for divorce. The ground you choose could impact the outcome of your divorce.

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