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Dying Without A Will In Georgia

It’s a task that many of us put off because of one reason or another.  Maybe you don’t want to talk about it, maybe you think it’s too hard or maybe you are just scared to start the process but when someone dies without a will that person’s “estate” will go through Georgia’s intestacy laws. There have been some very prominent people dying “intestate” lately including the musician, Prince. His massive estate is now in probate in Minnesota, his home state, and a fight is brewing amongst his possible heirs. Very few comprehend what this means or what the laws are in place, but essentially the State of Georgia, through its system of laws, has written a Will for you and you have no control over what’s in it.

What’s Affected

Only property that is solely in the decedent’s name will be handled under the intestacy laws. Certain property is considered to be out of probate. This property normally includes things that are owned jointly with someone else or have a designated beneficiary.

Accounts (401k, IRAs, checking and savings, pensions, etc.) that have a POD (payable on death) designation or property that is owned in joint jointly with someone else, go to the surviving owner following the death of the other owner.

Retirement accounts, IRAs or life insurance proceeds, where a beneficiary is named, are also considered out-of-probate and will go directly to the beneficiary and not through the probate court.

Intestate Succession

The most significant problem that arises when it comes to handling an estate through the laws of intestacy involves who receives what from the deceased’s estate. A large part of who gets what depends on whether the deceased passed leaving a surviving spouse, children or parents.

If you were Married with children:

If you leave a surviving spouse and children, your spouse and your children will have to share your property. In Georgia, the spouse’s portion of the estate can’t be less than 1/3 of your estate.

Married with no children:

If you have died and did not have any children your surviving spouse will receive the entirety of your estate.

Not married but you have children:

If you aren’t married at the time of your death but you have surviving children your children receive equal portions of your estate.

No spouse, No children but surviving parents:

In you aren’t married and don’t have living descendants, but one or both of your parents are still alive, the property goes to your parents.

No spouse, No descendants, No living parents:

If you die with no spouse or living descendants and your parents have predeceased you but DO have living siblings, your brothers and sisters will inherit your estate.

How Is The Amount of The Surviving Spouse’s Share Determined

Georgia’s intestacy laws are formulated to make sure that any spouse you leave behind is taken care of in the event that you die leaving children or grandchildren.

The law makes it clear that, even if you die leaving a significant number of descendants, your surviving husband or wife’s share of your estate can’t be less than 1/3 of the total value of the assets. Whatever is left over is split equally among the children and/or grandchildren.

What Will The Size of The Children/Grandchildren’s Share be?

How much of your estate that your kids will get depends on how many kids you have. All legally recognized children of yours will receive a portion of your estate. Legally recognized children are children born naturally to you and your spouse or adopted by you or your spouse The law does not include step-children.

If one of your children died before you but did leave grandchildren that child’s share is divided equally among their children.

Will the State Get My Property:

While it is extremely unlikely, situations where someone dies with no family do occur on extremely rare occasions.

The law is set up so that in the event that you die without a will and you have no immediate family, your extended family will receive your property.  Your extended family would be cousins, aunts and uncles, and others on down the line. The laws exists for the purpose of ensuring that anyone who is related to the deceased receives the property. If absolutely no relative is available, then, and only then, will the state receive the property.

Avoiding costly battles:

Dying intestate happens frequently. It even happens to the most famous and wealthy among us.  Developing even a simple will is something that most people don’t want to think about but it can make the grief and stress of losing a loved one much more bearable.  If your family knows your wishes it can alleviate the stress of making decisions at one of life’s most trying times. Having a will can also help avoid costly legal battles to determine who gets what.  It also allows you to have a sense of peace knowing that your property will be divided up as YOU want it to and only those people that YOU approve will get your stuff. If you want to get the ball rolling on preparing a will give the compassionate and understand attorneys at Harmon and Gorove a call today.  We will meet with you and discuss your options and we offer cost effective estate planning options.  Let us help you have peace of mind.

How much debt does it take to file Bankruptcy?

Tons of people ask the question each day, “Do I have enough debt to file bankruptcy?”  The long and short of it is that the US Bankruptcy code lists no minimum amount of debt to be able to qualify for bankruptcy. However, in consumer bankruptcy, there is a debt ceiling that prohibits an individual from filing a Chapter 13.

The Minimum Amount of Debt

As we stated previously, there’s no minimum amount of debt you have to have to file for bankruptcy. That being said, the amount of debt you have should be a determining factor in whether or not you decide file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Should you have creditors who are unwilling to work with you, you find yourself owing more debt than you can pay back during the the next five years, or you are facing lawsuits due to debts in collection the time may be right to file bankruptcy. There is, however, only one way to decide if the time is right and that is to contact a local bankruptcy attorney to analyze your individual situation.

The Maximum Amount of Debt

Some people find themselves faced with insurmountable debts. One thing you should understand is that there is a limit to the amount of debt you have have in order to file a consumer bankruptcy. Owing more than $1,184,200 in secured debt or $394,725 in unsecured debt as of 2018 disqualifies you from being able to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you find yourself in this situation then you may be forced to work on settling your debts or reducing outstanding principal in order to lower your debt load before we can file a Chapter 13. .

Bankruptcy in Georgia

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy protection is one that has long lasting implications and therefore shouldn’t be rushed into. Making contact with a local bankruptcy attorney like Harmon and Gorove can give you a better idea of where you stand financially and will allow you to determine which of your debts can be eliminated during bankruptcy and which ones you will have to pay back.

Chapter 7 or 13: Which Bankruptcy is Right for Me

For people who are considering filing for bankruptcy protection the advice of a competent attorney can help them decide which type of bankruptcy is right for them. There are significant differences between a Chapters 7 and 13 bankruptcies and only the expert advice of an attorney trained in bankruptcy can help you decide which route to follow.  

Generally, a Chapter 7 bankruptcyis known as a fresh start or straight bankruptcy. Chapter 7s allow for the discharge of unsecured debts like credit cards, utility bills, medical bills, personal loans or other debts that aren’t being guaranteed by secured collateral. In Georgia, most Chapter 7s last between four and six months and most debt will be eliminated. The only types of debt that can’t be discharged are student loans, some criminal penalties, child support arrearages, recent tax debts, Alimony, and other types of non-dischargeable debts that can be discussed with your attorney.

Chapter 13s are a debt reorganization plan which will last at a minimum 36 months to a maximum of 60 months. Each month, the debtor makes a payment to the Chapter 13 trustee that consists of all of your disposable income left over after paying reasonable living expenses each month. The Chapter 13 Trustee uses this money to pay your creditors and your attorney according to a plan which is filed with the bankruptcy court.

What can go wrong with a Chapter 7

The difference between a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy which provides near immediate relief, and Chapter 13 plan, which  lasts 3 to 5 years is a significant difference. When you come in to speak to one of our attorneys, you are relying on their significant experience to help guide you towards the best outcome for yourself and your family. There are significant ramifications for filing the wrong type of bankruptcy. One of the first major problems is filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy when you’re not eligible.

There are income guidelines that vary from district to district and state to state which ultimately decide whether you can file a Chapter 7. In the bankruptcy reforms laid out by congress in 2005, they created a means test. The means test is a mathematical formula used to determine whether someone is able repay a portion of their debt over time. This complicated figure is based upon income, the size of your family, and certain IRS guidelines for everyday necessities such as housing, food, clothing, grooming, transportation and other odds and ends. There’s also the a second part in the test. This determines whether you have the available income per month to repay your creditors. If you fail either these tests, then you will be forced to convert to a Chapter 13 or your case will be dismissed.

What Can Go Wrong in a Chapter 13

There are also some issues that come up in filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. If your income is too low to provide the necessary funding for a Chapter 13 plan your case will likely never be confirmed and you’ll be back to square one. Often people trying to save property such as a house or a car propose Chapter 13 plans that are completely beyond the scope of their ability to fund.

Knowledge is Key

A good attorney who is an experienced bankruptcy practitioner can advise you on when a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 is unfeasible. There are some attorneys out there who will try to push you into one type of bankruptcy or another for reasons ranging from the ability to make more money off your case to just trying to make the client happy.  The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove will ALWAYS advise you on the best course to take regardless of what our fees will be and we will do our best to explain to you why a case may or may not work out.

There are many variables that go into deciding whether a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is appropriate for you and your financial goals. This isn’t a simple issue that can be taken lightly. Attorneys must have the expertise and experience to know the intricacies of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. It is a massive disservice to clients to file under the inappropriate section of the bankruptcy code. Doing so is going to lead to a terrible result for the client that could end up causing the client significant financial loss. This is where the expertise of a competent attorney is invaluable. You should always be cautious about using an attorney who doesn’t have significant experience in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. The attorneys at Harmon and Gorove have filed more than 6,000 successful bankruptcy cases and provide expert advice on how you can best secure your financial future. Contact us today for a free consultation with our caring and competent staff.

 

The Automatic Stay: A Saving Grace in Bankruptcy

Tens of thousands of Americans struggle with credit card debt, medical expenses, mortgages and other bills each day. Many of those people have been contacted by creditors in increasingly predatory and harassing ways about late and delinquent payments. Many businesses have probably even turned your unpaid and deficient amounts over to a collections agency. Many of these collections agencies contact you at the most inconvenient times or in the most inconvenient places such as your work, or at dinner time after a long day away from your family.  They are often ruthless in hounding you and over time may become more and more aggressive towards you in an attempt to collect from you. The best way to stop all of these harassing collection attempts is to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will stop all collection attempts while your attorney works out the details of your debts with the trustee, this is called the automatic stay.

The best thing about a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is the automatic stay.  The automatic stay is issued to your creditors once your bankruptcy case is filed in the courts. When meeting with your attorney it is extremely important to include a complete and total list of who your creditors are, their address and phone number and how much you owe them in your bankruptcy petition. Doing this will ensure that these agencies receive notice to stop attempting to collect on your debt and to leave you alone. Once the automatic stay is in place, collection agencies can’t contact you, they must stop garnishing your wages and can no longer initiate or pursue lawsuits. Many of our clients often feel a deep sense of relief their case is filed and the threatening collector calls stop.

During, before and after the automatic stay bill collectors are also banned from taking certain actions including making threats, calling you at extremely late or very early hours, using profane language, increasing debts beyond the terms of the contract and threatening to have you arrested if you don’t pay their balance. These are protections afforded to you by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you feel that your right have been violated or you are tired of receiving the harassing phone calls and letters, being served with lawsuits or having your hard earned wages garnished, call one of the experienced attorneys at Harmon and Gorove.  They can help you find the right debt relief options for your situation and customize a plan to help get you out of debt for good. We offer convenient appointments and our consultations are ALWAYS free.

Bankruptcy, Foreclosure and the American Dream

During times like this more and more Americans have found themselves to be faced with the prospect of foreclosure or bankruptcy. American society puts a high value on owning a home and for many people it is a source of personal wealth and pride. For the many people who have been through the foreclosure process or filed for bankruptcy protection, being able to purchase a new home and start over again seems like it is an unattainable dream.

There is good news though, recent interviews with people in the housing industry (builders, realtors and lenders) suggest that people who have been through the foreclosure process or have filed for bankruptcy protection are often able to return to homeownership sooner than previously thought.  There are steps to take though in order to attain the dream of homeownership again.

Getting back on track

Foreclosures and bankruptcies often stay on someone’s credit for 7 years or more.  Because of this you must take deliberate steps towards rebuilding your credit as soon as you possibly can.  Consistently making bill payments on time, paying down credit cards, lowering other debt, and avoiding going into additional debt can cause credit scores to be dramatically improved within months of being discharged from bankruptcy or completing the foreclosure process.

Many experts say that many people who work diligently at rebuilding their credit and are save money for down payments are able to buy another home within two to 3 years. Federal Housing Agency (FHA) loans are a frequently used way for previously foreclosed upon homeowners to be able to finance a new home purchase. Many former homeowners who have been through a foreclosure or bankruptcy cannot qualify for conventional mortgages and FHA loans have exploded in popularity amongst people with little credit or damaged credit

Generally speaking, conventional mortgages offer interest rates that are lower than FHA mortgages but conventional mortgages often require a downpayment of 20 percent of the price of the home, a credit score of at least 720 and a proof of income. Comparatively, FHA mortgages, only require credit scores of about 620 and a down payment of 3.5 percent of the home’s purchase price, which makes it much more attractive for lower income people or people with little savings.

FHA loans have drawbacks. In addition to higher interest rates, FHA mortgages are subject to a mandatory insurance premium of 1.75 percent of the loan. While this sounds like a lot more money up front, often, these costs can be rolled into the total amount of the loan. Additionally, payments of 1.25 percent of the outstanding balance are required of the homebuyer each year. Many Americans find that FHA loans are a more affordable option despite these drawbacks.

FHA mortgages are not the only available option for homebuyers. Many former homeowners eligible for first-time homebuyer programs and if you qualify for Veterans benefits, you might qualify for a mortgage under the VA. These different programs help buyers to make the down payment and handle the closing costs of the loans. Generally speaking, programs like this are available to homeowners who have not owned a home within the previous three years.

A competent Attorney can help

If filing for bankruptcy is something you’re considering or you find yourself  threatened with a foreclosure it can feel like your world is collapsing around you. We cannot state more emphatically that this is not the case. The experienced bankruptcy attorneys of Harmon and Gorove can explain the bankruptcy and/or foreclosure process and advise you on how it will affect your financial situation. Armed with facts, expert analysis and years of experience our team can recommend the best debt-relief option for your particular situation. With the planning, guidance and the expertise of our team your dream of owning a home again can once more become a reality.

 

Bankruptcy and Divorce: They often go hand in hand

Financial problems are often a source of major problems in a marriage. Many couples in Georgia have found themselves facing the prospect of divorce at least in part due to unsustainable debt or different spending habits. Many couples choose to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in an effort to save their marriages from divorce.  Unfortunately, this decision doesn’t always end up working out and leaves divorce as the only option. Divorce can leave the parties wondering how their bankruptcy will be impacted.

There are several factors that play into the options for people facing divorce in this situation. Bankrate states, some people may be able to convert their Chapter 13 case to a Chapter 7. Another important thing to consider when looking at your options is whether the case was filed as a joint case or a single case.

There is a different set of circumstances for those who did not begin their bankruptcy proceedings before deciding to get divorced.  Those people will need to look at which type of bankruptcy plan is best for them according to a blog called My Horizon Today. The types of debt, the new incomes of the divorcing parties and the expenses incurred by new living situations are just some of the factors that will contribute to this decision.

Another important thing to think about during this time is how well the divorcing couples are able to work together to achieve their financial goals. If the divorce is not amicable and the former spouses are unable to communicate, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy might not be the best idea. However, for divorced couples who can get along and communicate, this type of plan may be the best thing for them even though they would likely have to communicate and work together through the 3 to 5 year bankruptcy term.

If you find yourself facing debt problems that could potentially lead you to divorce or you are divorcing and find your new financial reality untenable, contact the compassionate attorneys at Harmon and Gorove. We offer same day appointments and free consultation so we can show you how we can help you achieve a new level of financial freedom and get your life back on track.