Five Simple Tips for Creating an Estate Plan

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The Law Office of Paul Black presents this comprehensive guide to “Five Simple Tips for Creating an Estate Plan” for their clients. Call for more resources.

Author: Paul Black

Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as  a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: April 17, 2023.

What Is an Estate Plan?

What Is an Estate Plan sec

It’s never too early to start planning for your family’s future.

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An estate plan outlines ways to manage and preserve assets and wealth for your beneficiaries during your lifetime and after death. The main reasons for creating an estate plan are to ensure your wealth and benefits are protected and that they are passed on to your beneficiaries.

Assets under an estate plan include bank and investment accounts, collectibles, homes, and vehicles, among other assets. With an estate plan, you will safeguard your family and beneficiaries from high estate taxes and probate court and ensure that your estate is handled correctly.

A complete estate plan protects your assets if you become incapacitated. Although you can develop the plan yourself, it is crucial to seek professional assistance from an estate planning attorney, investment and financial advisor, and insurance dealer.

Tips to Create an Ideal Estate Plan

An estate plan will safeguard your wealth and set your legal documents in order. A properly drafted estate plan will save your family members from unnecessary probate processes, taxes, and family feuds when you are incapacitated or die.

To create a comprehensive plan, here are some estate planning basics to guide you:

Create a Will

It is crucial to create a will to guarantee your property is distributed to your loved ones during your lifetime. It is essential to have a will after you die to guide decisions regarding:

  • Who will execute your wish

  • Who will get your assets

  • Who will take care of your minor children

  • How to pay your estate tax and debts

Although a will becomes effective after your death, it ensures that the court does not make wrong decisions on your behalf and helps avoid beneficiary mistakes. In the will, you will name an executor to oversee the probate process and ensure that your property is distributed regarding your terms.

If your children are minors, you should name a guardian who will take care of them when you and your partner are absent. Ensure you include a date and sign the will in the presence of a witness in order to name a custodian who will make financial decisions, health care, and other obligations on their behalf until they are of legal age.

Also, you can establish a living will, also known as an advance directive. The purpose of a living will is to specify what kind of medical care you would like to receive if you were unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself. Therefore, you will need to appoint a healthcare proxy to make these decisions.

Select a Power of Attorney

A Power Of Attorney (POA) is an essential legal document that permits another person to represent you in specific legal and medical matters. In a POA, you appoint an individual/agent who will act and make major decisions on matters in your place.

Although There are various types of power of attorney, each will govern when such power takes effect and expires. It is naturally revoked if you have a non-durable power of attorney when you become mentally or physically incapacitated.

Without a power of attorney, the court will appoint one to act in your place. In contrast, a durable power of attorney will still be effective in your incapacitated state.

Set Up Guardianship for Children

In estate planning, selecting a guardian for your minor children is essential to avoid a situation where a court will have to choose one for you if necessary. A legal guardian is someone you nominate to act on your behalf or take care of your children or dependents after your death or incapacitation.

The legal guardians have custody of the children and the authority to make decisions concerning their protection, education, care, discipline, etc.

Legal guardianship is assigned by a court, such as the family court, according to state laws. If you nominate a guardian, include it in your will so that their role will be effective after your death.

Before you appoint a guardian, make sure you consult them ahead of time. You should also include a backup guardian in case your first choice becomes unavailable or is not ready to take care of your dependents.

Create a Living Trust

As part of your legal estate planning, a living trust ensures that your assets/property are properly managed and distributed during your lifetime and after you pass away. Living trusts are trusts that “own” the property you place into them but still allow you to have control over the assets in the trust.

Even though living trusts come in a variety of forms, each ensures that your assets are correctly transferred to your beneficiaries and that federal estate taxes are avoided. Some trusts are specifically set to benefit married couples, others selected beneficiaries and pets, while others benefit charities and nonprofits.

The two major types of living trusts are revocable and irrevocable trusts:

  1. Revocable trusts have provisions that can be modified or canceled according to the wishes of the trust’s creator or grantor. Income earned by the trust is distributed to the grantor during the grantor’s lifetime, and property passes to the beneficiaries after death.
  2. An irrevocable living trust is a trust that cannot be modified without the consent of its beneficiaries or a court order. By transferring ownership of assets into the trust, the grantor legally removes all ownership rights to the trust and the assets. 

Advantages of Trusts

Estate planning trusts have certain advantages over wills, including:

  • Asset protection during your lifetime. Your trust documents can tell how you want your estate handled if you become incapacitated. You can include instructions for distributing assets to loved ones, paying bills, and filing taxes. Trust funds can be used to pay medical expenses if you fall ill. 

  • Avoiding probate. While a will has to undergo a probate court process to prove its validity, a living trust does not. A trust avoids the lengthy, costly, and public probate process that comes with assets in a will.

  • Privacy protection for you and your loved ones. Because trust assets aren’t subject to probate, your beneficiaries’ information remains private during probate. 

  • Providing you with flexibility and control. Having a trust gives you more control over your beneficiaries.

How Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help You

If you need to learn how to put an estate plan in place, consider hiring an estate planning lawyer. An estate attorney will guide you on risk management on estate planning and assist you in creating a comprehensive plan.

If you need personalized legal advice in creating your estate plan, consult The Law Office of Paul Black for assistance.

Schedule an appointment today and talk to an estate attorney at our elder law and estate planning office.


Frequently Asked Questions


What Are Medical Care Directives in Estate Planning?

A medical care directive acts as an advance directive where you appoint an individual to make decisions for you when you are incapable of doing so. Some states also refer to medical care directives as a health care proxy, while others call it durable health care power of attorney.

What Is the First Step in Estate Planning?

The first step is creating an estate planning checklist of your estate assets. Make an inventory of your tangible assets like houses, real estate, vehicles, land, and jewelry. Also, get the value of your intangible assets like bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance policies, stocks, and bonds.

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