A question we sometimes get goes something like this, “Can I write out my wishes, and sign it and have it notarized. Is that a valid will?” In today's short video, attorney Joel Beck answers that question. As he explains, simply writing out your wishes and signing the document before a notary does NOT make that a valid will under Georgia law. As Joel explains, the testator – the person making the will – needs to have the legal capacity to make the will, be 14 years of age or older, have knowledge of the contests of the will, and execute it in the presence of two witnesses. The two witnesses should be disinterested, meaning they are not named in the will to receive any gift or distribution. If a witness is not disinterested, that person will not be a beneficiary under the will and any gift to that person shall be void, unless there are two other witnesses who signed the will as witnesses and are themselves disinterested witnesses.
The will itself is not signed before a notary. Instead, most estate planning lawyers will attach a self-proving affidavit to the will which is signed before a notary by the testator and the witnesses. This makes the will “self-proved” so that it may be admitted to probate without the general need for witnesses to testify as to the execution of the will.
For more information on the requirements for a will under Georgia law, see O.C.G.A. 53-4-20 through 53-4-24 which outlines the requirements for the execution and attestation of wills in Georgia.
If you've got questions about estate planning in Georgia, we invite you to download our free guide, available here. Or, if you're ready to get the help. you need to get your plans in order, contact us today to discuss your situation.