Cumming Georgia Legal Blog

Online passwords are important to estate planning

When people in Georgia ponder how to provide for their loved ones after they pass away, they may think about making a will or preparing other key estate documents. However, many people do not take into account the changing digital reality of many assets. From investment accounts to cryptocurrency wallets, online access is critical to many significant financial assets. In addition, there are many other aspects of online identity, including email accounts and social media profiles, which can often be important to daily life and communication.

Therefore, it can be equally important to develop a plan for digital assets as it is to make an estate plan for bank accounts and physical property like real estate. This can include making sure passwords are accessible to a person's most trusted loved ones. Making a will is essential to passing on property after death, but power of attorney documents can also be critical to keeping financial accounts and operations going while a person is incapacitated. While it is usually possible for an authorized person to eventually gain access, providing passwords is often the fastest and best way for people to manage these accounts quickly, especially at a difficult and stressful time.

Celebrity experiences highlight importance of estate planning

Many people in Georgia love the music of Aretha Franklin, known widely as the Queen of Soul. However, like many celebrities, she did not leave behind a clear estate plan to distribute her valuable assets among her family members. Franklin's experience may highlight the importance of estate planning to avoid a lengthy, costly probate process for loved ones left behind. After Franklin passed away in August 2018, news reports noted that she had not left behind a will. As a result, her estate has been in probate court since that time with family members disputing over the distribution of her substantial estate.

As she died without a will, state law should guide the distribution of her property, but the substantial amounts at stake have sparked various family members to make their claims in probate court. Existing disputes and disagreements between family can be exacerbated when a relative dies without a will, especially if a significant sum hangs in the balance. Now, three different handwritten wills attributed to Franklin have been found in different locations, including one reportedly discovered under seat cushions. All of them have been proffered to the probate court, but it is not clear if any of them hold legal value.

An overview of business structures

Prospective Georgia entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting a business will need to consider what type of structure it should take. Factors that will likely influence that decision include a desire to limit liability or whether there are multiple founders. Other factors could include where a founder lives or the cost of setting up a business as a limited liability company or a corporation.

The sole proprietorship is one of the easiest types of companies to operate. Income and expenses are reported on a Schedule C, and all income is subject to a 15.3% self-employment tax. Those who have partners or who are looking to legitimize their business as quickly as possible may want to consider using another structure. The same may also be true for those who are looking to limit their personal liability.

John Singleton's estate up in the air until will is filed

Georgia fans of the late film director John Singleton may be surprised to know that there may be some estate issues complicating things for the loved ones he left behind. Singleton, who died in April 2019 at the age of 51, reportedly had a will that was already prepared prior to his death. The director's mother is in possession of this document and plans to file it.

There are reports that the "Boyz n the Hood" director's mother handled her son's business matters, so it's expected that she's the likely executor of the will. According to previous reports, Singleton has children who aren't thrilled with his mother's desire to be named the conservator of his assets. The director's daughter has reportedly accused her grandmother of attempting to keep the children out of Singleton's post-death financial matters.

The pros and cons of buying a home in the exurbs

Exurbs were hit hard during the housing crisis, including in Georgia. Sale prices in these less-densely populated communities around the country fell 31 percent from their 2007 peak as compared to urban areas, which saw a drop of 24 percent. While prices in urban areas recovered by 2015 and are now 22% higher than they were before the recession, exurb prices took an extra two years to recover and are now only 7% higher.

These lower post-recovery prices help to explain the current popularity of exurbs. Even though commuting can often be a nightmare for many residents, homeowners can better afford larger yards with trees and extra space for outdoor activities. Additionally, many exurbs are strategically located so that only a short drive is necessary to purchase staples.

Is Mediation Right For Your Case?

Mediation is a way of resolving legal disputes outside of the courtroom. If both parties agree to mediation, neither must appear in court. The mediator serves as a facilitator of the negotiations, offering legal information so that the parties can reach an agreement on their disputes.

Benefits of mediation

What to do when behind on a mortgage

Homeowners in Georgia may experience difficulty making payments on their mortgages. At this point, it may make sense to sell the home and get out from the expensive home loan. The good news is that an individual can generally sell the home even if he or she is behind on the mortgage. As long as the lender hasn't foreclosed on the home, the current owner can still attempt to sell and use the proceeds to satisfy the loan balance.

Generally speaking, selling a home is easier when a homeowner has positive equity. This means that the home is worth more than what he or she owes on the mortgage. Selling a home is generally better for a person's credit compared to a foreclosure. This is often true even if a person goes through the process of a short sale. In some cases, a credit score can drop by as many as 300 points after a foreclosure occurs.

Changes to taxes on gross estates

When a person dies in Georgia or another state, the sum of their possessions both in and outside the United States is subject to estate taxes. These possessions, known as their gross estate, don't just include physical property. Bank accounts, investments, annuities and even unaccounted for gifts are subject to estate taxes. If the total amount of these assets is greater than the federal estate tax exemption, the executor of the estate is required to file form 706. This may even be true even if no taxes are owed.

In 2017, the exemption for the estate tax changed: It was raised from $5.49 million per person, $10.98 million for a married couple, to $11.18 million per person or $22.36 million for a married couple. This estate tax generally applies to citizens and legal residents of the United States. In some circumstances, nonresidents may be required to pay estate taxes as well.

Housing market is finally looking up for buyers

In recent years, sellers have generally had the upper hand in the housing market in Georgia and many other parts of the country. However, 2019 is shaping up to be a year in which buyers may be gaining back some leverage. According to Redfin, only 13 percent of homes had multiple offers made on them in January.

According to an economist from the National Association of Realtors, mortgage interest rates are likely to stay under 5 percent for much of 2019. Lower interest rates may enable buyers to save hundreds compared to if they had purchased a home in 2018 where rates peaked at over 5 percent. As the housing market eases, buyers may have more choice than they have had in recent years.

Would you like to donate part of your estate to charity?

If you would like to leave a gift for a good cause in your estate, it can be difficult to know where to start. Certain methods of giving have tax benefits and some might require complicated steps for an estate executor. However, with careful planning you can make your gift a reality.

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Boling Rice LLC
207 Pirkle Ferry Road
Cumming, GA 30040

Phone: 770-887-3162
Fax: 770-844-6602
Fax: 770-889-8824
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