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What would happen to your pets if you could no longer take care of them?

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Welcome news has arrived for Georgia pet owners. As of July 2010, Georgia has joined the ranks of the many states to adopt “pet trusts”. Until now, Georgia residents had little recourse when it came to planning issues involving their pets and had to rely on the probate process and the good will of others. Pet owners should update existing wills or taking the time to create an estate plan as the new law offers a significant advantage.

The concerned owner now has several options to consider when taking care of their four legged (or even feathered) family members. The traditional route is to gift the pet to a trusted friend. Often this gift includes some language as to how the pet is to be taken care of and sets aside a small sum of money to help pay the costs of the pet. A second option is to leave the pet to an organization that will find the pet a new home. Both of these options have a serious disadvantage – they require the will to go through the probate process. This process can take weeks, maybe months – during that time your pets need immediate help and there is no guarantee that they will get it! Unlike your other loved ones, your pets can not take care of themselves during the probate process.

The pet trust helps correct this problem and offers additional advantages. Trusts pass outside of the probate process and become valid at the specified event included in the trust documents – generally your death or incapacity. With a pet trust, your loved ones can immediately be given to a specified person of your choosing. Other advantages include the ability to leave specific and legally enforceable instructions as to how you would like your pet to be treated and a secured source of funding that must be spent for the pet’s benefit.

Part of the purpose of creating a will and associated estate planning documents is to take care of your family and make any transition easier for them. For many, myself included, our pets are part of our family and as such you should make them part of your estate plan. Pet trusts offer a secure alternative to those of us with four legged family members. Please give serious consideration to this new option as generally the inclusion of a simple pet trust would not dramatically increase the cost of your estate planning services.

Feel free to contact me with questions or comments!

Antonio Mari, Esq.

antoniobmari@gmail.com

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Categories: Wills

What will happen to your estate without a will in Georgia?

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The majority of Americans still don’t have a will. Cost, time and an uncomfortable subject are often cited as reasons to avoid making a will. Despite these hurdles many don’t understand the difficult position that a lack of will can create for your loved ones.

If you are married in Georgia and you die without a will, your property will pass to your heirs through a legal principal called intestate succession. If you have no children the property will pass to your spouse. This seems simple enough, but if you have a charity or a relative that you would like to leave a gift to, intestate succession will not accomplish your goal.

If you have children and die without a will, your property will be divided equally between your children and your surviving spouse, with your surviving spouse guaranteed to receive a minimum of one-third of your estate. Many people assume that their estate will simply pass to their spouse because they are married– that is not the law in Georgia. You need a will to direct your assets and make certain that your spouse is not put into a difficult financial position.  

If you have minor children, the significance of a will takes on an additional importance. If both you and your spouse pass, a will is the only legal device in which you can make your wishes known as to who should take care of your children. A judge will ultimately make that decision, but the will lets your preference be known. As a practice, judges give serious consideration to your wishes. Financially, the will can create a simple trust fund that will help provide support for your children on a timeline that you can create. These features cannot be accomplished without a will.

If you don’t have a spouse or children your property will pass to parents that survive you, if none then to your siblings and their children. A will can follow this scheme or alter it to include gifts to friends, charitable donations and even instructions for taking care of pets.  

A will can quickly and confidentially be crafted to express your wishes. Additionally a will is more affordable that you might think. Please feel free to contact me with questions or to get a will started.

Categories: Wills