When it comes to estate planning, one question that often arises is whether a handwritten will signed before a notary is valid. Many Georgia residents might believe that jotting down their wishes and having a notary sign off on them would suffice as a last will and testament. Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as that.
What Georgia Law Requires for a Valid Will
In Georgia, there are specific requirements that a document must meet to be considered a valid will. The creator, or testator, of the will must be at least 14 years old and possess the mental capacity to understand the implications of the document they're signing. It's crucial that the signing of the will is voluntary and free of coercion.
This will must be written, but there isn't a specific form it has to take. Furthermore, the will should have at least two competent, disinterested witnesses present during the signing. These measures are in place to protect individuals and ensure that their final wishes are respected.
The Role of a Notary in the Will Creation Process
A notary's involvement in the creation of a will differs from the traditional roles they play. Contrary to some beliefs, a will itself does not need to be notarized in Georgia. The will simply needs to be signed by the testator and the witnesses. However, a common practice among estate planning attorneys is to attach a self-proving affidavit to the will.
The self-proving affidavit, signed by the testator and the two witnesses in front of a notary, attests that the will was validly executed. This addition makes the will 'self-proved,' reducing the likelihood of needing the witnesses to testify in probate court after the testator's passing. Therefore, while having a handwritten note notarized does not constitute a valid will, a notary can play a role in simplifying the probate process, provided that the self-proving affidavit contains all necessary elements to comply with Georgia law.
Planning Your Estate the Right Way
It's easy to underestimate the complexity of crafting a legally sound will. However, taking shortcuts or making assumptions can lead to misunderstandings and potential legal issues down the line. An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through the process and ensure your will is valid under Georgia law.
At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we're committed to helping you plan your estate with ease and confidence. Our team of experienced attorneys can provide guidance tailored to your unique situation and ensure your will meets all the necessary legal requirements. Contact us at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan your estate in Georgia today.
For additional information, remember to download our free guide on estate planning in Georgia here, no strings attached.