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How Can I Make My Will Legally Valid?

Posted by Joel Beck | Jan 03, 2024 | 0 Comments

How Can I Make My Will Legally Valid?

Creating a legally valid will is essential for protecting your wishes after passing away. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we understand the importance of this process and are here to guide you through it. In this blog post, we'll outline the key steps and considerations to make your will legally valid in Georgia, keeping the language simple and approachable.


What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document outlining how you want your assets distributed after passing. It's more than just a piece of paper; it reflects your wishes and guides your loved ones during a difficult time. In Georgia, as in other states, specific criteria must be met for a will to be legally binding.


Why Is a Will Important?

Without a will (or other planning tools such as a fully funded trust), the state decides how to distribute your assets, which might not align with your wishes. A will gives you control and peace of mind, knowing your loved ones are cared for according to your desires. It's not just for the wealthy or elderly; everyone should consider having a will.


Legal Requirements for a Valid Will in Georgia

Creating a valid will in Georgia requires adherence to certain legal criteria established by state law. These requirements are designed to ensure that the will genuinely reflects the intentions of the person making it, known as the testator, and to minimize disputes during the probate process. Let's delve into these requirements in detail:

  1. Age and Mental Capacity: In Georgia, an individual must be at least 14 to create a will. This age requirement is lower than in many other states, where the minimum age is typically 18.  The testator must be of "sound mind" when creating the will. This legal standard means that the individual understands:

    • The nature and extent of their assets.

    • The act of making a will and its effects.

    • The natural beneficiaries of their estate (i.e., who would typically expect to inherit, such as family members).

    • How these elements interrelate to form a distribution plan for their estate.

  1. Voluntary and Deliberate Action: The will must be made voluntarily, without coercion, duress, or undue influence from others. The testator should act of their own free will in deciding how their estate will be distributed.

  2. Written Document: Georgia law requires that a will be a written document. While typed documents are standard, handwritten wills can be valid if they meet all other legal requirements.  Georgia does not presently (as of this writing) recognize electronic wills (documents created and signed digitally). Traditional paper documents are the norm.

  3. Signature of the Testator: The testator must sign the will. If the testator cannot sign the will themselves (due to physical incapacity, for example), they can direct someone else to sign on their behalf in their presence.

  4. Witness Requirements

    • Number of Witnesses: At least two individuals must witness the will's signing.

    • Competence of Witnesses: The witnesses must be competent, meaning they understand what they are witnessing and are of sound mind. The witnesses must also be of legal age to witness a will in Georgia.

    • Disinterested Witnesses: Ideally, witnesses should be "disinterested," meaning they do not stand to benefit from the will or will not serve the estate in any fiduciary capacity. While having an interested party as a witness is not prohibited, it can lead to complications or challenges in probate.  If there are not two disinterested witnesses, some of your plan may be voided and not acted upon. 

  1. Notarization (Optional but Recommended): While notarization is not a requirement for a will to be valid in Georgia, it is highly advisable to have a "self-proving affidavit" attached to the will. A self-proving affidavit is a document signed by the testator and witnesses, notarized by a notary public, which verifies the will's authenticity and can streamline the probate process. It is important that the self-proving affidavit conform to Georgia law in its content as if it does not do so the affidavit is of no effect and it may be much harder to admit the will to probate.

  2. Specific Bequests and Declarations (Optional): While not legally required, it's beneficial to include specific bequests (detailed distributions of particular assets) and any necessary declarations (such as the appointment of an executor or guardian for minor children) in the will to ensure clarity and minimize potential disputes.

  3. Original Document generally required.  When you have passed away and your will is being admitted to probate to be used to settle your estate, the original signed and witnessed will would be filed with the probate court.  If it cannot be found, Georgia law presumes that the will was revoked. It may be possible to overcome that presumption and have a copy of the will admitted to probate, but that may prove challenging and it may ultimately not succeed. Be sure to keep your original documents safe and secure so they will be able to be used when needed.


Life Changes and Your Will

Reviewing and updating your will periodically is essential, especially after significant life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or acquiring substantial assets. In Georgia, you can change or revoke your will as long as you are legally competent. This ensures that your will always aligns with your current circumstances and wishes. It is critical to view your estate planning as a process as opposed to a once and done transaction due to changes in your life that will occur after you sign the documents, as well as changes in the law that later occur as well.  


Contact Us for Personalized Assistance

At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we are committed to helping you create a will that reflects your wishes and meets all legal requirements in Georgia. Our approachable and professional team understands the nuances of estate planning and will guide you through each step.  Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342 or online. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, download our free guide here, with no strings attached. We're here to help you secure your legacy and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

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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