Estate planning involves making decisions in the present that will affect others in the future. Many Georgia residents create a will in the belief that it alone can serve to protect their wishes and loved ones. For many, a properly executed will is all they need, but for others, a will can create the need for opening probate. Probate is often time-consuming, expensive and a public process; all reasons why most would prefer to avoid it if possible.

If a will is contested, a very rare occurrence, it will be necessary to open probate. During probate, among other duties, the court will supervise the transfer of assets from the decedent to the proper beneficiary. Even if there is no contest, if the decedent has left property in his or her name alone, title to that property can only go to the intended beneficiary through court action. This is what happens if the decedent leaves only a will with directions as to which individual is to receive what property.

Alternately, a living trust can be created, which can bypass the need for probate. Assets placed in a trust remain in the trust to be controlled by the trust creator during life and distributed after death to beneficiaries. Other estate planning options to avoid probate include holding property in joint tenancy, establishing a pay-on-death direction for certain money and retirement accounts, life insurance and transferring assets during one’ lifetime.

Many people work hard during their lives to establish an estate that has value. Naturally, they want to be assured their wishes after death will be followed. An experienced estate planning lawyer can offer guidance and counsel in an effort to minimize the costs of administration and maximize the distribution to beneficiaries.