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living trust georgia

Planning an estate is a complicated process, and there are a number of ways to go about it. Whichever way you choose though, you’ll want to make sure your assets and your family are cared for and protected. A living trust is one popular way to do that.

If you live in Georgia, this article will guide you through the process of making a living trust. It also examines the reasons why you may or may not want to make a living trust. When you go about making a living trust or any other financial planning activity, it may be a good idea to hire a financial advisor to serve as your guide. SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service can help you find an advisor in your area who is a good fit.

How to Create a Living Trust in Georgia

Here’s how to make a living trust in the Peach State:

  1. Choose the type of trust you’re going to form. For single people, a single trust is likely the right choice. If you’re married, a joint trust might make more sense. A joint trust can hold jointly owned property like cars and homes, plus anything either spouse independently owns.
  2. Take stock of your property and choose what you want to place in the living trust. Most things you own, including stocks, bonds, and family heirlooms like jewelry, can go inside the trust. Now is also the time to gather relevant paperwork for your property, such as car titles or home deeds.
  3. Pick a trustee to distribute the contents of your trust when you die. You can either give this title to someone else right away or name yourself as trustee and pick a successor trustee to take over the job when you die. Most people choose a child or another relative to be their trustee.
  4. Draw up the trust document. You can do this online with a program or get the help of a lawyer.
  5. Sign the document before a notary public.
  6. Put your property into the trust, a process known as funding the trust. This does take some paperwork, so while you can do it by yourself a lawyer may be useful.

What Is a Living Trust?

Living trusts are legal frameworks in which property and assets can be stored. They are established by a document. Each trust has a trustee who manages and distributes the property in the trust. When creating a trust, you can either name yourself as the trustee or pick someone else for the job.

One type of trust is an irrevocable living trust. This is a permanent arrangement, and property can only be removed from this type of trust with the permission of everyone named in the trust. The property inside an irrevocable living trust is owned by the trust, and thus taxes are paid via the trust.

Revocable living trusts are more flexible. The trust creator, also known as the grantor, can remove property at will, and modify the trust without first getting permission from the beneficiaries. The grantor maintains ownership of the property in the trust and pays taxes on it as normal.

How Much Does It Cost to Create a Living Trust in Georgia?

The amount you’ll spend to set up a living trust in Georgia depends on the method you use to create the trust. If you use an online program to write the trust document yourself, you’ll probably spend less than a few hundred dollars. If you hire an attorney to help you create the trust, you’ll probably spend more than $1,000.

It is obviously cheaper to create your trust yourself, but there are many pitfalls inherent to DIY estate planning. You’ll have to be extremely vigilant and take a lot of time to do all of the necessary research. For this reason, hiring an attorney may be more prudent. The exact cost of this option will depend on the fees each attorney charges, so check early in the process to avoid any surprises. Also make sure any attorney you work with is a trust expert, not merely an estate planner.

Why Get a Living Trust in Georgia?

living trust georgia

The most common reason for getting a living trust in Georgia is to make life easier for your family when you die by allowing them to avoid probate court. Probate court is a lengthy process that most estates have to go through, and it can at times be costly, time-consuming and an invasion of privacy. Georgia has not adopted the Uniform Probate Code. This code, used in some states, can make the probate process simpler. Since it’s not place in Georgia, a living trust can be especially useful in the Peach State.

There are other upsides to getting a living trust, too. If you have minor children to whom you want to leave property, a living trust makes it possible for a trustee to keep the property until the child reaches legal age. If you become incapacitated, having a living trust can mean you avoid conservatorship because you’ll have already selected a trustee.

Who Should Get a Living Trust in Georgia?

Some people believe that living trusts are only for those with a lot of money, but this isn’t true. In Georgia, the lack of the Uniform Probate Code means that many estates, even smaller ones, can benefit from a living trust. This is especially true because there is no simplified probate process in Georgia unless an estate has no will, the estate has no debts and the beneficiaries have already agreed on how to divvy up property.

Of course, there are reasons not to get a living trust. For one, they can be more costly and time-consuming to set up than a will. Also, living trusts have the potential to be more difficult for your heirs, as they offer a longer window for legal challenges after you’ve died. If you do decide against getting a living trust, remember that you’ll still need an estate plan.

Living Trusts vs. Wills

Even if you create a living trust, you’ll still need a will to address any property that’s not stored in the trust. Plus, a will can do the following items that a living trust cannot:

  • Establish guardianship for children who are minors
  • Select managers for children’s property
  • Name an executor
  • Provide instructions on how to pay taxes and debts

Here is a fuller comparison of the abilities of living trusts vs. wills:

Living Trusts vs. Wills
Living Trusts Wills
Names a property beneficiary Yes Yes
Allows revisions to be made Depends on type Yes
Avoids probate court Yes No
Requires a notary Yes No
Names guardians for children No Yes
Names an executor No Yes
Requires witnesses No Yes

Living Trusts and Taxes in Georgia

living trust georgia

A living trust probably won’t impact your taxes, but you should still know about the Georgia estate tax and the Georgia inheritance tax as you go about estate planning.

There is no estate tax or inheritance tax in Georgia. However, the federal estate tax will apply to estates worth more than $11.18 million ($22.36 million for couples).

The Bottom Line

It isn’t hard to make a living trust in Georgia, but it does take some time and requires a lot of attention to detail. You can set up a trust yourself, but it probably makes sense to get the help of a lawyer. There state of Georgia has not adopted the Uniform Probate Code, so even smaller estates may benefit from a living trust.

Estate Planning Tips

  • A financial advisor can make estate planning easier, but finding the right advisor can be daunting. SmartAsset can help with our free financial advisor matching service. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your financial situation and goals, and the program will match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. We have fully vetted all of the advisors on our platform and ensured they are free of disclosures.
  • One type of asset that can’t be placed in a living trust is a 401(k) plan. Don’t worry though, there is a solution: You can name your trust as a beneficiary. Then, your plan’s benefits will pay into your trust when you die.
  • Don’t forget to name a guardian for your children when planning your estate. It isn’t fun to think about, but you’ll be happy that you have a plan in case the worst happens.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/seb_ra, ©iStock.com/suesmith2

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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