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Do I Need A Will In Georgia?

Posted by Joel Beck | Mar 10, 2024 | 0 Comments

Going through estate planning might feel overwhelming for some, with various legal documents and processes to consider. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we understand the complexities involved and strive to simplify these concepts for our clients and navigate them through the process with ease. One question frequently arises: "Do I need a will in Georgia?" Let's delve into the importance of having a will tailored explicitly to Georgia residents' needs and legal landscape.


The Significance of Having a Will in Georgia

A will is more than just a legal document; it reflects your wishes to distribute your assets upon your passing. In Georgia, having a well-crafted will ensures that your estate is managed and distributed according to your specific desires rather than being left to the state's default laws on inheritance.

  • Personalized Asset Distribution: With a will, you can specify exactly how you want your assets divided among family, friends, or charities. Without one, your estate will be divided according to Georgia's intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes.

  • Appointment of an Executor: A will allows you to appoint an executor to manage your estate's affairs. This person will fulfill your wishes as outlined in your will, providing peace of mind that your estate is in trusted hands.

  • Guardianship Decisions: For parents with minor children, a will is crucial for naming a guardian. Without this designation, the court will decide who will care for your children without your input and the result might not align with your preferences.

Understanding Georgia's Legal Requirements for Wills

Georgia law has specific requirements for a will to be considered valid. These include the need for the will to be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will), and witnessed by at least two individuals who are not beneficiaries of the will or nominated to serve in any fiduciary role (executor, trustee, guardian). Ensuring your will meets these criteria is essential for its validity and enforceability in Georgia.

  • Written and Signed: The testator must sign a valid will in Georgia. While Georgia allows handwritten wills, all wills must still meet strict criteria for validity including the witness requirements.

  • Witness Requirements: At least two competent witnesses are required for a will to be legally binding in Georgia. These witnesses must observe the testator signing the will and sign it themselves in the testator's presence.

The Consequences of Not Having a Will in Georgia

Dying without a will, known as dying "intestate," means your estate will be distributed according to Georgia's intestacy laws. This can lead to outcomes that might not reflect your wishes and could complicate the distribution process for your loved ones.

  • State-Determined Heirship: Your assets will be distributed to your closest relatives based on a predetermined formula, which may not match your intended wishes.

  • Complications for Unmarried Partners and Other Family Members: Unmarried partners are not recognized under intestacy laws, meaning they would not automatically inherit any part of your estate. Likewise, stepchildren are not recognized as heirs and would only inherit from you pursuant to your will or trust.

How to Create a Will in Georgia

Creating a will in Georgia does not have to be a daunting task. While you can draft a will on your own, consulting with an estate planning lawyer ensures that your document is legally sound and fully reflects your wishes.

  • Identify Your Assets: Begin by taking inventory of your assets, including real estate, bank accounts, personal property, and digital assets.

  • Decide on Beneficiaries: Clearly designate who you want to inherit your assets. This can include family, friends, charities, or others.

  • Choose an Executor: Select a trusted individual to serve as your executor, responsible for managing your estate according to your will. Plan for a backup executor as well, if your first choice is not able or is unwilling to serve.

  • Consult with Professionals: An estate planning lawyer can provide invaluable assistance in drafting a will that meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects your wishes.


Consider Tools Beyond Wills

In some situations, wills may not be the optimal tool to use to pass assets to others after your death. Depending on. Your particular situation and wishes, other tools such as revocable living trusts, may be better suited for accomplishing your goals, especially if a goal is to avoid the probate process, or avoid the probate process in multiple states (for example if you owned real estate in more than one state). Consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you understand your options for planning, and then assist you in choosing the planning tools that are most appropriate given your goals. 

Peach State Wills & Trusts: Your Partner in Estate Planning

At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we're dedicated to providing friendly, approachable, and professional guidance to help you go through the estate planning process. Whether you're considering drafting a will for the first time or need to update an existing document, we're here to assist.

Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342 or online to learn how to plan for your estate in Georgia today. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, you can download our free guide here, no strings attached.

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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At Peach State Wills and Trusts, a division of The Beck Law Firm, LLC, we're committed to answering your questions about wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, uncontested probate, and business planning issues in Georgia.

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