Georgia Law Blog

Why all legal adults should have an estate plan

Millennials in Georgia and throughout the nation may not have homes or large retirement accounts. However, it is still a good idea for this generation to take estate planning seriously. This is because they may have kids or pets that will need to be looked after if they pass on or become incapacitated. They may also have student loan or other types of debt that may need to be resolved after they pass on.

A power of attorney and living will are two documents that can be helpful for individuals while they are alive. A power of attorney allows an individual to appoint an agent to oversee his or her affairs. Living wills allow individuals to appoint an agent to oversee their medical treatment and put into writing the types of treatment that they do or do not want to receive.

Around 6% of convicts are likely innocent

Approximately 6% of state prisoners across the U.S., many of whom are presumably in Georgia, have been wrongfully convicted, according to a study by researchers at Penn State University. The findings were published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology in April 2018.

Past studies have found that between 3% and 5% of defendants convicted of capital crimes, including rape and murder, are eventually exonerated by DNA testing. However, no one had ever researched the percentage of defendants who are wrongfully convicted of lesser types of crimes, including robbery, assault, theft and drug possession. To find out, researchers surveyed almost 3,000 Pennsylvania state prisoners and determined that approximately 6% were likely innocent.

Marital satisfaction may not steadily decline

When couples in Georgia get married, they often have hearts full of happiness, hope and excitement. Prevailing wisdom says that these feelings will soon wear off and that marital happiness will decline as the years go by. New research, though, is calling this idea into question.

Instead of showing that dissatisfaction is inevitable in marriage as the years go by, it seems that it is actually quite common for spouses to feel high levels of marital satisfaction many years after getting married. This has even proven to be the case in studies where couples in disadvantaged economic situations were involved.

Three situations when divorce is justified

First off, divorce is not a decision to make on a whim, especially if children or a high amount of assets are involved. Divorce is an investigation into the life of both partners. Your past, present and future personal and financial lives are examined for defense and attack strategies for and against you.

That said, there are situations where divorce should be at the top of your mind. Sometimes, your safety and mental health can depend on whether you can let go.

Challenges in the administration of a loved one's estate

Clearing up the financial aspect after a loved one's death can be more complicated than some Georgia residents think. First of all, someone must be designated as the executor of that person's estate. The will may have one already designated, or if the assets are in a trust, the trust document will have designated a trustee.

An executor, be it one appointed in the will, a trustee or an administrator appointed by the probate courts, must identify all of the decedent's assets, pay off debts and ensure that what's left is distributed to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. While a professional executor can be helpful, especially when dealing with unreasonable heirs, a family member may need to be it, in which case he or she must prepare for some time-consuming work.

Tips for deciding whether to use a will or a trust

When people in Georgia prepare an estate plan, they might use a trust or a will as the main vehicle. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. A trust costs more to prepare, but it does not have to go through probate. The probate process that a will must go through is not private, and it can be costly and time-consuming.

The public nature of the probate process means that a will may be subject to more scrutiny. It might be more likely to face a challenge than a trust, and there are more laws about challenging a will than a trust. Wills generally cover all assets belonging to a person while assets may need to be retitled in order to be placed in a trust. People should avoid the common error of creating a trust and then not funding it.

Common divorce assumptions to avoid

Commonly believed myths about divorce could cause some people in Georgia to make mistakes during the divorce process. For example, some fathers may think there is no chance that they will be awarded custody, but this is not true. The court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. If the father has been the child's main caregiver, he might get custody.

Some men may also assume that they will not get alimony. However, as more women have moved into the workforce and become breadwinners, the likelihood that men will be awarded alimony has grown as well. A man who has stayed home with the children might be paid spousal support until he is able to reenter the workforce. People should avoid other assumptions as well, such as thinking they can protect their finances and keep them separate by having separate accounts. The money in them might still be considered joint property along with other assets acquired during divorce, and they will be subject to equitable division.

Are field drug tests trustworthy?

No one likes someone accusing them of doing something that they didn’t do. However, someone falsely accusing you of wrongdoing based on faulty evidence is arguably worse. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Georgia Southern University’s starting quarterback this past August.

Police stopped Eagles quarterback Shai Werts for driving 78 in a 55. Instead of a speeding ticket, what Werts received was worse.

Combining a life insurance policy with a trust

Georgia residents who incorporate trusts in their estate plans often do so because they worry about heirs who are young or have been irresponsible with money in the past being left large lump sums. Trusts allow assets to be distributed to beneficiaries at designated times or when certain milestones, such as graduating from college, are reached, which can help to ensure that money is spent or invested wisely and assets that have taken a lifetime to accumulate are not squandered.

The death benefits paid out by life insurance policies are usually significant, which is why it may be prudent to have them put into a trust rather than paid directly to beneficiaries. For individuals with large estates, paying life insurance benefits into a trust can also provide a hefty tax benefit. Another benefit of using a trust in this way is that it provides an individual with far more control over beneficiary designations.

Spouses may hide assets in divorce cases

A common occurrence in divorce cases is one spouse hiding assets from the other in an attempt to keep the assets for himself or herself once the divorce is finalized. People in Georgia who are approaching or going through a divorce should be aware of some of the tactics a spouse might use to conceal marital assets. He or she might move money around by overpaying creditors or the IRS, purchasing antiques or art, investing in cryptocurrencies or redirecting account statements.

Some people will overpay creditors, saying they were merely paying off the bill, and then request a refund of the overpayment after divorce. This allows the person to temporarily hide the funds without the other spouse knowing. If one spouse suddenly becomes interested in art or antiques, this can also be a red flag that he or she is hiding assets. They might say they bought a painting at a yard sale when it is really a valuable piece of artwork.

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