Marietta Estate Planning in the Comfort of Your Home



This is a question I get all the time. Parents are often concerned about who they should name as Executor of their estate, and whether or not one child’s feelings would get hurt if he or she was not named as Executor.

There is no hard and fast rule to whether or not children should be named as Co-Executors. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Co-Executors work TOGETHER. It’s not an either/or situation. They both have to sign off on all matters relating to the estate. If your children do not work well together, do not name them as Executors expecting that this experience will draw them closer – it will not. If you have a large number of children, and you name them all as Co-Executors, you are creating a logistical nightmare.

It’s best to choose a person who is trustworthy, level-headed, and detail-oriented to serve as your Executor. If you have more than one child who meets this description, and you feel that they would work well together and benefit from having more than one Executor, naming Co-Executors is not a bad idea. If you have a large number of children and/or children who do not get along well, naming them as Co-Executors is not a good idea.

After you decide who you want to serve as Executor, it’s best to ask him/her if they are willing while you are alive. Once that decision has been made, you should consider letting your other children know as well, and let them know why they were not chosen. This can help to avoid hard feelings after your death – you probably know families who have been torn apart after a death because of hard feelings or a simple misunderstanding.

If you have any questions about who you should name as Executor, call me, Sarah White, at 678-453-6490. I work extensively with families on these issues, and I can help you sort through your situation.

A lot of people ask me how they retitle an automobile if a loved one died intestate (without a will) in Georgia.

It’s pretty simple. Fill out this form if your loved one either did not leave a will or left a will that is not going to be probated. The heirs must agree among themselves about the ownership of the car, and any liens on the car must be released. The title should be submitted if it’s available.

When I am assisting clients with probate, I have noticed two extremes.

On one end of the spectrum is the deceased who keeps an extremely thorough, updated spreadsheet (or an I Love You Letter) of all assets with account numbers, financial institution addressees and phone numbers, current values, beneficiaries, purchase price, etc.  On the other end of the spectrum is the deceased who has not informed anyone of any bank accounts, life insurance policies, 401Ks, real estate, etc. that he or she might own and who keeps sloppy records or none at all.

The clients whose loved one kept the immaculate records have a much easier task of probating the estate than those who don’t. For those clients who have no clue what assets the deceased might own, I usually recommend the following:

  • Start with bank statements. Bank statements can obviously give you account numbers and account amounts. You can search through old statements to uncover any premiums paid on life insurance policies, real estate taxes, or other payments that can give you a clue on locating other assets.
  • Look over previous tax returns. These can give you an idea of who the deceased’s tax preparer was, any mortgages paid, retirement income information, and more depending on the tax form used.
  • Search for safe deposit boxes. The obvious place to start is the primary bank used by the deceased. If you can’t find one there but you are certain the deceased had one, talk to other local banks in the area.
  • Attempt to locate the deceased’s accountant or financial advisor. He or she should have a list of the deceased’s assets.
  • Look through the deceased’s personal papers. Those could provide a wealth of information, such as mortgage documents, brokerage statements, insurance policies, storage facility rental documents, or personal or business appraisals.
  • Look through the deceased’s computer.
  • Talk with the deceased’s current and past employers. They can give you information on any retirement accounts he or she owned.
  • Don’t forget to look through the deceased’s home thoroughly for any hiding places. I have heard many anecdotal stories of money hidden in the attic, jewels sewn into curtains, etc.

Good luck!

No. There are 18 states (CT, DE, Washington D.C., IL, KS, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, RI, TN, VT,  and WA) which collect a state income tax. Each of those states has an exemption amount which ranges from a low of $338,333 in Ohio in 2009 to a high of $3.5 million for NC and DE. Georgia has no state estate tax.

This is a question I get all the time.

Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1), if you die without a will and you have no children, the spouse is the sole heir. If you have a spouse and children, they split the estate, as long as the spouse doesn’t get less than a third of the estate. For example, if you leave a spouse and one child, they each get half. If you leave a spouse and two children, all three get one-third. If you leave a spouse and three children, the spouse gets one-third and the children split the remaining two-thirds.

If there is no spouse, the children get it all. If there is no spouse and no kids, the parents inherit. If no spouse, kids, or parents are around, then the siblings get it all.

This answer only applies to property that is considered to be probate property. Common examples of property that is not typically probate property are life insurance, retirement accounts and other accounts that have a beneficiary designation, and some property that is owned jointly with another person.

Have any other estate planning questions? Email me at

I am going to start a Youtube channel where I will specifically answer on video the questions I most frequently get from clients.

Two of the questions I most frequently get are: do I need to file these documents somewhere, and what do I do with them now?

In Georgia, a will is not filed anywhere until death, when it is presented to the probate court to be probated. You may wish to give your doctor, nursing home or hospital a copy of your advance directive for healthcare (also known as a “living will” or “healthcare power of attorney”). You may wish to give your financial power of attorney to the person who you authorized to use the power — but then again, you may wish to hang on to that power of attorney until it is needed.

As far as where to keep them, if you have a safe deposit box I would keep them there. If not, a home fireproof safe should be sufficient. You should keep copies at a second location.