Georgia Law Blog

How to fairly allocate inherited assets

When an individual in Georgia passes, he or she may decide to leave assets to children, grandchildren or other family members. However, even when armed with a set of instructions, it can still be difficult to allocate tangible assets without causing conflict. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to minimize conflict while respecting the deceased individual's wishes. The first step is to determine if more than one person wants a certain item.

If no one wants it, the item can be sold or donated to charity. In the event that only one person wants it, he or she can claim it without issue. When two or more people showed interest in an object, those individuals were allowed to bid on the items in question. Alternatively, family members can come to a custom agreement as to who will eventually take possession of those heirlooms.

Reducing juror bias by openly discussing race

A recent paper says that talking about race during the course of a trial could lead to a lower level of juror bias. During the jury selection process, attorneys in Georgia and elsewhere should talk about the potential impact an implicit bias could have on a person's ability to evaluate evidence. They should also make opening statements that caution jurors to not make assumptions based on race or other preconceived notions that they may have about a defendant.

It may be possible to point out that the officer who took a defendant into custody has a track record of mistreating minorities in the community. Legal representatives may be able to use an officer's file as evidence to support this claim. An expert witness may be able to talk about how cross-racial identifications may be unreliable as evidence in a criminal case.

The dangers of DIY estate planning

A recent court decision regarding a mistake made in preparing a will has demonstrated the dangers of DIY estate planning for Georgia residents. Those who are tempted to try to handle their own estate planning out of a desire to save money on a lawyer must be prepared to bear the consequences if something goes wrong.

The specific issue in the case involved property that was inherited by the decedent after she had already prepared her will. The problem was that she had committed her will to a prepared form that was not done properly. The purchased will form was missing the key residuary clause that would have allowed her beneficiary to inherit the additional property that was not specifically listed in her will.

What are differing site conditions?

Whether it’s a large-scale construction project or a private property renovation, you’ve likely hired contractors and subcontractors to carry out your project. And behind your construction project probably lies a contract that spells out both worker and client obligations. But what happens when a worker encounters an unforeseen complication?

Any unanticipated obstacle that might cause deadline setbacks or additional costs to the construction project is a differing site condition. It can come in many forms, some of which include buried debris or rocks, unanticipated utility lines, muddy soil or excess groundwater.

Wealthy couple fighting over asset division

When couples in Georgia file for divorce, their marital property is divided on an 'equitable" or 'fair" basis; this does not mean that property is split 50-50. Equitable distribution is also the law in New York, where one wealthy couple is currently going through a contentious divorce.

David and Libbie Mugrabi, who are considered 'royalty" in the art world, have been battling over assets since 2018, which include artwork and expensive real estate in Manhattan and the Hamptons. David's family, who have been prominent players in art auctions for over two decades, are well-known for owning more Andy Warhol paintings than any other private collector in the world. Some of David's artwork could be considered part of his business, which means all or part of it may be separate property. Other artwork, which belonged to the couple's personal collection at home, would be considered marital property.

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.

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