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Gainesville Georgia Legal Blog

Lessons to be learned from Aretha Franklin's estate issues

Anyone in Georgia not aware of the many potential benefits of being proactive with estate planning can learn a lesson from the Queen of Soul. Soon after Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer, it was reported that she left no will or trust in place to help determine what will happen to her estimated $80 million estate. All four of the late singer's sons have since stepped up as interested parties.

One of the reasons why an estate planning attorney often recommends advance planning is to avoid issues like the ones that may affect Franklin's estate for many years. The singer's sons have appointed her niece to act as the personal representative of the estate. Having a trust established would have expedited the distribution of Franklin's assets, eliminated the need for the probate process and kept matters private. The "Respect" singer was said to be fiercely private with her finances, so much so that she would insist on receiving cash payments for performances.

An overview of the child support process

In Georgia and any other state, a noncustodial parent is responsible for helping to raise his or her child. The husband of the baby's mother is presumed to be the child's legal father. If the child's parents aren't married, paternity needs to be established before a person can be ordered to pay child support. In some cases, a father will voluntarily acknowledge his paternity. A DNA test can also be conducted to determine the identity of a child's father.

An individual can move to establish paternity even if the other parent lives in another state or country. This can be done at any point until the child turns 23. If paternity is established, it does not necessarily mean that the child assumes his or her father's last name. However, a father can take legal action to have the child's last name changed to match his own.

Yes, you can still co-parent successfully after a Georgia divorce

Divorce is usually a time of personal upheaval. It affects your social life, your finances and your living situation. There are a variety of fears that are common for women facing divorce, including financial concerns and worry about how it will impact their children. This very serious concern is one you actually have control over.

The more contentious your divorce becomes, the harder it will be on your children emotionally. Ideally, you and your ex will take steps to mitigate the impact of the divorce on your kids. Working together to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship can reduce the strain of divorce on your children and help you focus on the positive changes coming your way.

Study finds student loan debt creating marriage strain

Student loan debts could put a serious strain on the marriages of some Georgia couples. A study by Student Loan Hero found that 13 percent of divorced borrowers said student loans caused the end of their relationship. Over a third said that student loan debt combined with other financial issues played a part. With the cost of college continuing to rise, millennials are taking on more and more debt on their education. The average debt is around $34,000, but some people owe more than $50,000.

Education debt is not the only area where millennials are struggling. Half will not make more than their parents, and more than 40 percent said that they were unable to buy a home because of debt. In another survey, over 40 percent of student loan borrowers said they fought about money with their partners. Almost 20 percent said it was OK to keep financial secrets from a partner, and nearly 25 percent said they had concealed their student loan debt from their partners.

Survey looks at surprises, fears of divorcing women

Some women in Georgia may be unprepared for the financial reality of divorce. According to a survey by the online marketplace Worthy, almost half of all women who were divorced said they had encountered unpleasant financial surprises during their divorce. Women reported their number one fear in a divorce was the difficulty of living on one income followed by the fear of what the divorce would cost.

The latter is also a common surprise for women during divorce. Women have also been surprised to learn the extent of debt in their family finances. This debt may include auto loans, student loans, the mortgage, credit card debt and more. Some women expect alimony to last longer and are surprised that they will have to go back to work outside the home. Others do not expect the high cost of health insurance or assume they can keep the family home when it is not possible.

Upgrading from a will to estate planning

Drafting and executing a will is only a small part of the estate planning process in Georgia. A will effectively serves the purpose of avoiding intestacy, which is the statutory process of disposing of estates that individuals leave behind without properly indicating their wishes; however, this is a legal instrument with many limitations.

Depending on its construction, a last will and testament may not be able to adequately address certain probate issues such as conflicts between heirs and relatives. Since probate cases are handled in public court, they can often turn embarrassing for families; in Georgia, the estate of James Brown, known as the "Godfather of Soul," is an example of a contested will that resulted in plenty of dirty laundry reported by the news media outlets. A solid estate plan, on the other hand, will keep things private by keeping the estate away from probate court.

How to plan for the long-term financial impact of divorce

Georgia residents who are going through the divorce process might want to consider the long-ranging financial impacts of separating from a spouse. According to a report from the Center of Retirement Research, about half of American retirees find it hard to maintain the standard of life they were accustomed to when they were working. However, households that have experienced a divorce are at a 7 percent higher risk of facing a lower standard of living.

This higher risk is further complicated by the changing tax law affecting alimony, which goes into effect in 2019. With the change eliminating the payer's ability to claim the payments as a deduction and the receiver's ability to claim it as income, both payers and receivers can be negatively impacted.

Helping a loved one cope with car crash-related injuries

The closest bonds of love and family ties are something an injured victim will need to fall back on after a serious motor vehicle collision. Facing serious injuries and an inability to return to work, the person who suffered injuries in the crash may require financial and even physical support during convalescence.

Car crashes can result in all kinds of serious medical issues, such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Some people lose limbs, while others experience compound fractures that require surgery and immobilization during recovery. If someone you love suffered serious injuries in an accident, you may need to step up and provide care.

Ignoring collectibles could create estate tax issues

It is important for anyone in Georgia or throughout the country to engage in estate planning. However, it may be even more important to do so for those who own collectibles. This is because collectibles have a higher capital gains tax rate compared to other assets like a house or car. The rate is 28 percent if the item is sold after being held for a year.

If an individual sells a collectible for a profit less than a year after acquiring it, the gains are taxed at his or her personal tax rate. Whether an asset is sold at a profit or not depends on what its value was when acquired. Ideally, an object will be appraised while its original owner is still alive. However, an appraisal done at the time of a person's death may provide the most accurate step-up basis for whoever receives it.

Why estate planning can be helpful for anyone

Estate planning is defined as managing assets during a person's life and after passing while minimizing taxes. Georgia residents who are planning to leave behind any assets at all for future generations can benefit from an estate plan. Ideally, an individual will have at least a will if he or she wants to avoid the potential fate of 55 percent of Americans who don't have one.

A person can have an attorney help craft estate plan documents or create them on his or her own. These documents provide an individual with more control over where his or her assets go after passing away. Instead of hoping that a house goes to a child while money is left to a charity, an estate plan can dictate that this is what happens after a person dies. Having clear instructions may reduce the odds of family infighting after a parent or grandparent passes on.

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