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Can I Change My Will After It's Created in Georgia?

Posted by Joel Beck | Jan 22, 2024 | 0 Comments

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of securing your family's future and having a will is a fundamental component of this process. In Georgia, creating a will is a thoughtful and responsible step, but what if circumstances change? Can you modify your will once it's in place? Let's explore the possibilities and considerations for changing a will in Georgia.


The Basics of Wills in Georgia

A will, as a legal document, dictates how your property should be distributed upon your passing. It appoints an executor or personal representative to manage your affairs after death and can nominate guardians for minor children or trustees for managing assets left to young individuals. To be valid in Georgia, a will must adhere to specific legal requirements and the document comes into legal effect only upon the testator's death.


However, if you have a will drafted in another state, it may be recognized in Georgia, but it's wise to ensure it complies with Georgia law and is optimized to provide for an easier probate process under Georgia law. Seeking the guidance of a Georgia estate planning attorney can help address any potential issues.


Requirements for a Valid Will in Georgia

Creating a valid will in Georgia involves adhering to specific conditions outlined in the Georgia Code. These requirements are designed to ensure the legality of the document and facilitate a smooth probate process when the time comes. Let's delve deeper into the essential elements that contribute to the validity of a will in the state of Georgia.

  • Age and Mental Capacity Requirements: According to Georgia law, individuals must be at least 14 years old to create a valid will. This age requirement reflects a balance between recognizing the testamentary capacity of younger individuals and ensuring a level of maturity necessary for such a significant legal decision. Additionally, the testator must possess the mental capacity to understand the document they are creating and its legal effect. This requirement emphasizes the importance of a sound mind in making decisions about the distribution of one's assets.

    Furthermore, the creation of the will must be voluntary, free from any external pressure, duress, misrepresentation, or undue influence from others. This ensures that the testator's wishes are genuine and not coerced by external forces, preserving the integrity of the document.

  • Witnesses and Validation Process: The presence of witnesses is a crucial aspect of validating a will in Georgia. Two witnesses must be physically present during the signing of the will, adding a layer of authentication to the process. However, if a witness is also named as a beneficiary in the will, additional non-beneficiary witnesses become necessary to prevent conflicts of interest. This requirement aims to maintain the impartiality of the witnessing process, ensuring that those who stand to benefit from the will are not the sole verifiers of its authenticity. It adds a layer of objectivity to the validation process, enhancing the credibility of the document.


  • Notarization and Self-Proving Affidavits: While notarization or filing with the court is not mandatory at the time of creating a will in Georgia, opting for a self-proving affidavit does streamline the probate process as it eliminates the need for testimony of witnesses to prove the will was validly executed. A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement, using language set forth in Georgia law, that is signed by the testator and the witnesses in front of a notary public, affirming the authenticity of the execution of the will. Not having a proper self-proving affidavit will result in additional steps being required before the will can be admitted to probate following the testator's death.  


Understanding and adhering to these requirements is crucial in ensuring that your will is legally valid and can withstand scrutiny during the probate process.


Changing or Canceling Your Will in Georgia

Estate planning is not a one-time event; it's an ongoing process that acknowledges life's changes. The flexibility offered by Georgia's estate planning laws empowers individuals to adapt their wills to changing circumstances, provided they are legally competent. This adaptability is essential to reflect changing family dynamics, financial situations, or personal preferences.

One significant aspect of altering a will in Georgia is that recipients named in the will hold no rights to the property until the testator's passing. This provision enables individuals to make changes without seeking permission from those designated as beneficiaries. It grants the testator the freedom to reassess and adjust the distribution of assets in line with evolving circumstances.

Whether it's distributing assets among friends, charitable organizations, or other individuals, Georgia law provides the autonomy to structure a will that truly reflects one's wishes, and the law does not require mandatory property bequests to family members or spouses.  This means that it is possible to disinherit spouses and children, allowing you the flexibility to tailor your estate plan according to your unique preferences and circumstances. However, there is a feature of Georgia law that provides a mechanism for a surviving spouse and minor-aged children to receive a year's support from the probate estate, even if they are disinherited under a will. Therefore, if you goal is to not pass assets to a surviving spouse or a minor-child following your death, you should certainly consult with an experienced Georgia estate planning attorney to look at options to accomplish your goals, and the best option may be utilizing a revocable trust which avoids probate.  

It's crucial to understand that altering a will involves careful consideration and documentation. Any changes should be made with a clear understanding of the legal implications and potential challenges, and updated documents must be executed properly under the law, with the required witnesses and notary where applicable. Seeking the advice of a Georgia estate planning attorney can provide invaluable guidance through this process, ensuring that modifications are legally sound and aligned with individual goals.


The Importance of Legal Guidance in Estate Planning

While Georgia law doesn't mandate the involvement of an attorney in will preparation, seeking legal guidance is highly recommended. Estate planning is a significant legal need with far-reaching implications – it may be your single largest legal concern you ever face. An experienced attorney can ensure your will and other planning documents align with both legal requirements and that they comprehensively address your goals.

At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we offer consultations to review existing wills for updates or prepare new wills tailored to individual goals. Contact us at 678-344-5342 or online to learn how to plan for your future in Georgia. If you have questions about estate planning, download our free guide here, no strings attached. Secure your family's future with Peach State Wills & Trusts today. 

About the Author

Joel Beck

Joel Beck founded The Beck Law Firm, LLC in 2007. His firm focused on business law and estate planning needs of clients, two areas that he was drawn to based upon personal and business experiences in his life, including a ten-year career at NASD (now known as FINRA).


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