There is a common misperception among many that estate planning is a sophisticated process that wealthy people use to make sure their surviving spouse, children, and future generations will be taken care of. And while it is certainly true that the larger and more complex an estate is, the greater potential benefit can be derived from careful and prudent planning, it is also true that every Georgia resident should explore the various estate planning tools to understand how they can work for the individual’s specific needs.

The first issue to consider is what happens if a person does nothing concerning estate planning and dies intestate. Legal experts can explain that each state has laws that provide for a distribution of the assets of a person who dies without a will or trust. These laws do not consider what the deceased may have wanted. For example, if a person with no spouse or children were to die intestate, his or her estate would go to some distant relative rather than the close friend or charity the deceased may have preferred.

In addition to a will that can name intended beneficiaries, a trust provides other benefits. Assets properly transferred to a trust may avoid probate, which is a timely, costly and public process. A trust can also provide for temporary incapacitation options, thereby creating benefit during one’s lifetime as well as after. And finally, executing a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare can assure the desired medical care is received and perhaps more importantly, the type of care not desired is not administered.

People work hard throughout their lifetimes. It’s important that their final wishes be fulfilled in the manner of their choice. An estate planning lawyer might provide guidance on the best way to handle an individual estate.