Georgia Law Blog

Reasons why eyewitness testimony may be unreliable

It isn't uncommon for Georgia residents to be convicted of crimes based on mistaken identifications. In some cases, witnesses are pressured to choose a person out of lineup even if they aren't sure if the perpetrator is in that lineup. This is partially because they want to be helpful to a police officer or other authority figure. An officer may also guide a person toward making a choice in an effort to get closer to solving a case.

It is also possible that a witness truly believes that he or she can positively identify the person who committed a crime. However, that person may actually be relying on images seen on social media or on television to guide his or her decision making process. It has been suggested that authorities encourage witnesses to refrain from investigating a case on their own prior to identifying a potential defendant.

Asset protection important amid shifting estate tax exemptions

Wealth preservation for families in Georgia often revolves around the problem of limiting estate taxes. When an estate's assets exceed the exemption level, then as much as 40% of the estate's value might be owed to the government in taxes. Historically, the exemption level has fluctuated quite a bit. Years ago, an estate's value beyond $600,000 was exposed to taxation. The exemption has risen dramatically in recent years with tax law now granting individuals an exemption up to $11 million as of 2020. In 2026, however, tax law will drop the exemption to $5 million.

In such an environment, estate planners sometimes choose to employ asset protection trusts. These legal entities serve as the official owners of assets in order to separate the estate from any particular individual whose death could trigger estate taxes. Trusts might add another level of protection through the use of trust protectors whose powers activate if the original trustee faces liabilities due to divorce or perhaps a lawsuit.

Common mistakes landlords should avoid making

Landlords in Georgia and throughout the country could be making key mistakes that might result in lost rent or costly legal fees. Ideally, landlords will make any repairs that allow a tenant access to clean water, a roof that doesn't leak and an electrical system that functions properly. If a landlord doesn't make a critical repair in a timely manner, a tenant may have the right to move out or pay someone to fix the issue.

Tenants who have issues fixed on their own may deduct the cost of doing so from their rent. Landlords are generally required to provide advance notice before entering a unit. This can be done by phone, email or any other method that is convenient for both parties. However, landlords don't need to provide notice if they are entering a premises to make an emergency repair.

Tips to ease children's stress during a divorce

Children tend to have a lot of questions when their parents get divorced. One mistake Georgia parents sometimes make is telling their kids about the divorce before they have the answers. By waiting to have a conversation with the children until after both sides have consulted with attorneys, parents may be able to ease their children's minds.

Divorce is rarely a surprise to kids who have witnessed the tension between their parents for quite some time. However, they are rarely prepared for the impact it will have on their lives. Children may wonder how they will spend the holidays, including their birthdays, after their parents live in separate homes. Parents who can put their own differences aside for the sake of the family could see their children adjust to the transition more easily. Family law judges will make these decisions if the parents don't.

William Shatner's divorce is final

Georgia "Star Trek" fans might be interested to learn that William Shatner's divorce from his fourth wife was recently finalized. The couple, who had been married for 18 years, had separated in early 2019.

News sources report that Shatner and his ex-wife had a prenuptial agreement. Shatner will reportedly be able to keep a majority of his assets, which are valued at around $100 million. He was able to keep all of his royalties from "Star Trek" as well. Shatner's ex-wife stated that her brother had passed away around the same time that the divorce was filed. He reportedly filed for the divorce in December, and it was finalized on Jan. 29. His ex-wife asked for respect from the media so that she could grieve her brother's death with her family.

How estate planning changes throughout the years

Having an estate plan is important for all adults. However, what is needed as part of that plan could vary throughout a person's life. A student or recent college graduate in Georgia might only need durable powers of attorney for health care and finance as well as a simple will. The powers of attorney appoint people to make decisions about an individual's health and manage the person's finances if the estate owner is unable to do so. For a young adult, this might be the parents.

An estate owner may want to purchase life insurance and update their other estate planning documents after getting married or entering a serious relationship. They might also want to review and update beneficiary designations on any accounts that have them. An advance directive or living will outlines the person's medical wishes and can be helpful for whoever is appointed to make medical decisions.

Mistakes to avoid when buying a business

Purchasing a business in Georgia can be exciting. However, it is important for people who are wanting to buy businesses to take steps to avoid making mistakes that could have serious consequences.

Entrepreneurs tend to make some common mistakes when they buy businesses. Knowing what to avoid doing can help people to avoid making critical errors. Some entrepreneurs overextend themselves financially when they buy companies. People who cannot afford the financing can end up losing their businesses.

Land use proposal withdrawn by commissioner

Georgians who live in Cobb might be interested to learn that a proposal to develop an industrial area of the city was withdrawn by the commissioner that sponsored it. The land-use proposal was withdrawn because of the controversy surrounding it.

According to reports, the commissioner proposed an amendment to Cobb's Comprehensive Plan. The amendment called for a 900-acre area between I-285 and the Chattahoochee River to be designated for development into highrise office buildings, residences, apartments, and malls. If the amendment had been approved, it would have resulted in changes to the land use map. The map is not the same thing as a zoning decision, but it is frequently used when zoning decisions are made.

Keeping beneficiary designations current in an estate plan

When people in Georgia prepare an estate plan, they may have some assets that are passed by beneficiary designation or another method does not involve a will or the probate process. Retirement accounts, life insurance policies and trusts all pass by beneficiary designation. Other types of property, such as a home or a bank account, might be held by two individuals. This could mean that each person has joint ownership with rights of survivorship, meaning that the asset passes to the surviving person when the other person dies.

Property passed in this way instead of going through probate may be less vulnerable to challenges because next-of-kin do not get notified. However, this is not always true. For example, there is a case in Pennsylvania in which a man has claimed he found a beneficiary designation form for his brother's Morgan Stanley account in his brother's house. Since there was no form on file at Morgan Stanley, the asset is supposed to pass to the man's children, but the man's brother said he intended to disinherit his ex-wife and children.

What a successor trustee does for an estate

It isn't uncommon for Georgia residents to name successor trustees. When an individual either dies or becomes incapacitated, the successor trustee may be called upon to administer the trust. A successor trustee may need to obtain a letter from a physician that proves a living person is no longer able to manage his or her affairs. If the settlor has died, the new trustee will need to obtain a death certificate before assuming authority over the trust.

Once an individual has established that he or she has the ability to administer the trust, that person will likely have several decisions to make. For instance, it may be necessary to sell or transfer real estate such as a primary residence. Ideally, a trustee will attach a note to the deed saying that he or she has the authority to sell or transfer the property to a new owner.

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