Every adult in Georgia should have a will, and they should be sure that it is enforceable under Georgia law. It is also important to know what a will does, what it doesn't do, and how to create a will that can stand up to scrutiny in probate court.
The Basic Facts About Wills
A will is a legal document that directs the distribution of an individual's property after they pass away. A will can name someone for the court to authorize to handle the individual's affairs after their death. This person is usually known as the executor or personal representative of the estate. The estate is a term that refers to the assets left at the time of death that will be distributed through the probate process (except for property that passes directly to a co-owner or through a beneficiary designation.)
A will can also nominate one or more people to serve as guardians of minor children of the person writing the will, and can also nominate someone to be a trustee to manage assets left behind for minor children or young adults, or other persons who may need someone to manage their assets for them. For the will to be legally valid in Georgia, it must meet certain legal requirements, and it will not have any effect until the person who created it—known as the testator—passes away.
While a will prepared in another state may be recognized in Georgia, there is a chance that it might not comply with Georgia law, or that it is not optimized for Georgia law, so it is a good idea to have it reviewed by a Georgia estate planning attorney.
Requirements for a Valid Will
The Georgia Code describes the operation of a will and the legal requirements for creating a will starting at the beginning of Title 53, Chapter 4. To create a will, you must be at least 14 years old and have the mental capacity to understand what you are creating. You must be creating the document voluntarily and not under duress, misrepresentation, or undue influence from another person.
The will must be printed out on paper. The person creating the will must sign it (or instruct someone to sign it for them) in the physical presence of two witnesses, and those witnesses must also sign the will. If someone signing as a witness is also designated to receive something under the will, then the gift to that witness is void unless two other witnesses (who are not beneficiaries) also sign the will.
Additional Information About Wills in Georgia
The will does not need to be notarized or filed with the court at the time of creation. However, to make the will self-proving, so that the witnesses do not need to testify to the validity of the execution of the Will in probate court, the testator and the witnesses must sign an affidavit in front of a notary public. For more in self-proving affidavits, check out this blog post.
Once you create a will, you can change or cancel it at any time as long as you're legally competent. People named in the will as recipients of your property don't have any right to that property until you die, and that means you don't need their permission to change the will later.
Georgia law does not require you to give any of your property to a spouse or other family members. If you have been convicted of a crime, you can still create a valid will.
Work with Peach State Wills & Trusts to Create a Will to Suit Your Needs
While the law does not require you to work with an attorney while preparing your will, it is a good idea to do so, especially since your estate planning may be your most important legal need and it can impact you and your family. An attorney can ensure that you understand the future ramifications of everything in your will and that the document meets all the requirements for legality.
At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we would be happy to review your existing will for possible updates or prepare a new will tailored to your goals. Just contact us to schedule a consultation at 678-730-2079.