It’s never easy to deal with a loved one’s passing. For the ones who are left behind, death is a package of emotional distress and financial challenges, especially if the deceased did not have a life plan. In some cases, the Last Will and Testament may be what brings more complications.
Cantley Dietrich, a law firm in Georgia specializing in probate, stated, “When a loved one passes away, the affairs of the deceased must be put in order, and any assets must be distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries.” For this reason, a probate lawyer can help families avoid further stress.
In the US, probate laws vary from state to state. That is why it’s important for those who are writing a will to have a basic understanding of the particular state’s law. As for those left to execute the will, it’s also highly beneficial that they know about probate laws.
If you are a resident of Georgia, here are some of the things that can help you better understand the state’s probate laws.
Small Estate Threshold and Procedure
If a decedent left a small estate that is less than a certain dollar amount, the family does not need to go to a formal probate court. Whether or not the deceased left a will, if the value of their assets is under Georgia’s small estate limits, the family can file for a summary probate, instead.
Summary probate is a simplified procedure, in which the family needs to file some forms and wait for a period of time before asset distribution.
To determine which assets can be distributed, the family can make a list. This list should include materials that can be passed to heirs by will or by the state’s intestacy laws. Families should not include retirement plans and bank accounts to the list, as they are not under the small estate limit.
Assets Transferrable Without Probate
In some cases, probate is not needed to distribute assets. There are some kinds of assets that can be transferred automatically after the death of the owner, such as joint tenancy, tenancy by entirety, beneficiary designations, and payable on death accounts.
In a joint tenancy asset, upon the death of one tenant, the surviving joint tenant automatically becomes the owner, even without a court order. Tenancy by entirety, on the other hand, is available to married couples. If one spouse passes away, the assets are passed down to the living spouse.
In beneficiary designations, named beneficiaries receive the proceeds from life insurance and retirement plans. Similarly, bank accounts and brokerage accounts are transferred to them.
Estate Tax and Inheritance Tax in Georgia
Along with 37 other states in the US, Georgia does not levy either an estate tax or an inheritance tax. These two are different in that estate taxes are imposed before the heirs receive the money while inheritance taxes are imposed after the heirs receive the money.
Under Georgia’s estate tax laws, the state reduces the death tax of individuals who died in 2002 by 25 percent. Those who died in 2003 have a 50 percent death tax exemption, while those who died in 2004 have a 75 percent death tax deduction.
However, although Georgia residents don’t have to pay state death taxes, they may still have to pay a death tax to the federal government.
A death in the family is already stressful enough. For this reason, laws, assets, and taxes should not make matters more complicated. With the help of an attorney and basic knowledge of state laws, a grieving family can focus on recovering.