The Georgia Will and Estate Planning Guide

 

Speak with a trusted Last Will and Testament lawyer in Georgia.

Experienced Last Will and Testament Attorney in Georgia

A Last Will and Testament is a critical part of planning for the future. A GA estate lawyer can help you prepare and get your documents in order.

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Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Perigon Legal Services, LLC

Mr. Faulkner is an experienced counselor and litigator with 15 years of experience, having held bar licenses in four states (Mo, Il, Ct, and Ga). Stan Faulkner uses this experience and focuses his skills on the pursuit of assisting individuals in probate (trust and estate) matters, guardianships and conservatorships, estate planning, business disputes, and contract disputes. Published on June 19, 2021, last updated on March 29, 2024.

A Last Will and Testament is a critical part of planning for the future. It is a legal document that outlines how an individual’s assets will be managed after death.

The purpose of a will is to protect their personal property and funds, so wills can be crucial when the testator’s estate is distributed between beneficiaries. A GA estate lawyer can help you prepare and get your documents in order.

Creating a will is vital in ensuring a comfortable future for your partner, minor children, other loved ones, and even your pets. A properly written document assigns someone to oversee the estate plan and settle all debts.

It also provides for your family upon your death. Georgia’s last will and testament is a legal record containing your final wishes and instructions for distributing your personal property, real estate, accounts, and other assets among your family members.

Related: Understanding Georgia Property Laws and Their Implications

Anybody can create a will. However, certain requirements must be fulfilled for a Georgia Will to be considered binding under the law. For example, the person writing a Will (testator) has to be of sound mind, not under any undue influence, and there has to be a self-proving affidavit.

The process of writing a legally binding will in GA is complex. As last wills and probate are specialized legal fields, you should retain an established business attorney, such as those at the Perigon Legal Services in Marietta, GA. Stan Faulkner can guide you to secure your residence for your beneficiaries and loved ones.

What is a Georgia Last Will and Testament?

You must create a will to ensure your property is distributed how you want it to be. If you die without a will, your personal property will be distributed according to “intestacy” laws (the law that comes into play if you pass away without a will).

The intestacy law of Georgia distributes property beginning with your spouse and kids. If you have neither spouse nor children, your parents will likely receive your property. The list continues to remote relatives, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, and nieces. If the court exhausts this list and you have no living relatives, the state will take your property.

The person for whom the will is written is the testator. You, the testator, may write a will for various purposes. The most common, however, is to specify how your property should be divided upon death. These assets include, but are not limited to:

  • Bank accounts

  • Business holdings

  • Cash

  • Jewelry

  • Property

  • Real estate

  • Vehicles

Additionally, your last will and testament allow you to name specific individuals to roles of responsibility. You may designate someone as the legal guardian of your minor children. You can also assign an executor to act as the representative of the estate. This person makes sure that the decisions outlined in the will are followed. If there is no will, courts make these arrangements.

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The Importance of Writing a Georgia Will

Writing a will is only one aspect of properly planning your estate. To cover all aspects of estate planning, talk to an estate-planning attorney and get your affairs in order. This is preferably done long before it is necessary, while you are still of sound body and mind. Although no one enjoys thinking about it, you never know what might happen in the future, so it’s wise to be prepared.

Although a will is not legally required, it is highly recommended. Without one, you have no binding evidence of your final wishes, which means that state laws of intestacy will determine how your assets are distributed. Your property may even be auctioned off to satisfy any remaining debts.

 

Legal Requirements of Georgia Wills

 

There are several essential elements that wills must have to be legally binding under Georgia law.

  1. It must be composed by someone of sound mind over age 14.
  2. It must be in writing.
  3. It must be signed by the testator, or (if they are physically incapable) some other family member can sign the testator’s name in their presence and under their direction.
  4. It must be personally attested to and signed by two witnesses. The witnesses must sign the form in the presence of whoever makes their final wishes known with those signature marks on paper.

However, not everyone can be a credible witness to a will. Most states require that witnesses be adult individuals who won’t inherit anything under the terms of the will. That is because they may lose the inheritance. Under Georgia law (§ 53-4-23), the witness can lose what the testator has left them unless at least two other witnesses are not beneficiaries under the existing will.

Furthermore, any codicil, an addition, modification, or revocation of part of the last will, must be carried out by the testator in the same manner as the original will. That means witnesses must also sign the modified will. Consult with an experienced attorney to ensure the changes are legally enforceable.

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Advanced Directives and Living Wills: Essential Tools in Estate Planning

In estate planning, advanced directives and living wills stand as pivotal documents, yet they are often overshadowed by the focus on last wills and testaments. Advanced directives empower individuals to make preemptive healthcare decisions, ensuring their wishes are respected even when they cannot voice them due to incapacitation.

A living will, a type of advanced directive, specifically addresses end-of-life care preferences, offering peace of mind to both the individual and their loved ones. In Georgia, the legal framework supports these documents, providing a clear path for their creation and implementation. Interestingly, a 2019 study revealed that only about one-third of Americans have any form of advanced directive, highlighting a significant gap in comprehensive estate planning.

By incorporating advanced directives and living wills into one’s estate plan, individuals gain control over their medical treatment and relieve their family members from making these difficult decisions during times of emotional distress.

 

The Critical Role of Estate Planning

 

Estate planning transcends the mere distribution of assets after one’s death; it is a comprehensive strategy that encompasses end-of-life care, the guardianship of minors, and the efficient management of tax liabilities.

A well-crafted estate plan ensures that your wishes are honored, your loved ones are protected, and your financial legacy is preserved. It also serves as a crucial tool in minimizing potential conflicts among heirs and reducing tax burdens that can diminish the value of the estate. With only about 45% of US adults having any estate planning documents in place, the importance of this process cannot be overstated.

Estate planning is not solely for the wealthy; it is a necessary step for anyone wishing to secure their legacy and provide for their loved ones with clarity and foresight.

Essential Tools in Estate Planning

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Legal Georgia Will Forms

To simplify (or possibly confuse) matters, you don’t need a will form to create a legally valid will. A will can take many forms, as long as it satisfies certain legal requirements

To determine whether your written demands constitute a binding will, one must be able to ascertain from the document that it conveys your (the testator’s) wishes for the distribution of your property to be carried out upon your death.

An estate planning attorney can help you write your will and help you navigate the complicated procedure.

 

Choosing a Sample Will Georgia

Although you aren’t required to use a sample Will to create a legally enforceable final document, it definitely makes the process easier. To choose the right will look for forms that only have fields that reflect those that are similar to your personal needs. Local lawyers can help point you in the right direction.

 

Georgia Last Will and Testament Template

An easy Georgia last will and testament template option can be found here. Merely print the form and neatly fill it out. However, you should have a reputable attorney look it over to verify you completed it correctly.

A simple will is the preferred option for many without a large estate or multiple beneficiariesThis example is perfect for those who want to make their wishes known without the added paperwork that accompanies a more detailed will.

How to Write a Will in Georgia

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Last Will and Testament Form Georgia

A will and testament form is only a start unless you have extensive legal expertise. Retain diligent and experienced testament lawyers to make any necessary adjustments.

 

Planning Your Will Georgia

 

Before writing your will, you may want to discuss your legacy and options with testament attorneys. An initial interview often lasts one to two hours. You can outline your goals and concerns there, enabling your attorney to establish the best ways to safeguard your legacy and your family’s financial security.

 

How to Write a Will in Georgia

 

You should research how to write a will when making arrangements for your assets. There are several specific elements that you need to include in your Georgia last will and testament to ensure that it is legal.

  • Personal Information: The testator’s name needs to be typed or neatly written at the top of the document, followed by the city and county of residence.

  • Personal Representatives: List the name of the chosen executor and the name of an alternate in case the primary choice cannot fulfill the duties. Include the city, county, and state of residence for each.

  • Beneficiaries: List the full legal name, current address, relationship to the testator, the last four digits of the social security number for each beneficiary, as well as the property being bequeathed to each.

  • Printed names, signatures, and current addresses of two witnesses or more

  • Optional Notarization

In addition to drawing the will, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney like Stan Faulkner can efficiently represent your beneficiaries during the probate process.

How to File Wills in Georgia

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How Do I File a Will in Georgia?

Although it isn’t required, filing wills gives you a safe place to store your last wishes. This ensures the document won’t become lost somewhere among your other papers after death.

You might also be able to include the contact information of those individuals you want notified that your last will and testament are on file. Although they will not have access to it before that date, they can retrieve it and submit it to the Probate Court upon your death. This starts the process that ensures the will meets legal requirements and then distributes the assets accordingly.

Even though the probate procedure in GA does not require a lawyer, an expert attorney can help you file the probate petition and more efficiently manage the estate. In addition to reducing creditor exposure, spending less on taxes and protecting your interests, estate, and probate lawyer’s familiarity with the processes may save you time and trouble in the courts.

 

Does a Will Have to Be Notarized in Georgia?

With all of the other complexities, many Georgia residents wonder, “Does a will have to be notarized?” The short answer is “No.” Notarizing a will does, however, speed up the process in probate.

In this state, you create what is known as a “self-proving” will. This means that the will is thoroughly verified upon being notarized. Otherwise, the Probate Court will need to contact the witnesses to testify that the will is valid. So, although it is not necessary that the will be notarized, it is suggested. A law firm familiar with the jurisdiction may be able to recommend a conveniently located notary public.

How to Probate a Will in Georgia

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How to Probate a Will – Georgia Probate Court

Even with a well-crafted will, you may still need to know how to probate a will. GA accepts and encourages self-proved wills. For a will to be self-proved, it has to incorporate another document signed by the testator’s witnesses and a notary public.

The will’s validity is attested to by the document when it was signed. Since estate planning is important to probate a will, the right lawyer can lead you to the best plan.

Relevant: Estate Planning Attorney Marrieta GA

 

Georgia Probate Law No Will

 

Sometimes, you may be required to probate when there’s no will. Generally, you’re required by law to submit the deceased’s will and supporting documents to the Probate Court upon the deceased’s death.

When an estate has no assets, there might be no requirement to probate a will. Regardless, there’s no fee for submitting the will, not for probate.

Additionally, if your loved one died with no will, you could request to probate the estate in the County Probate Court where they lived at the time of death. If your loved one didn’t live in GA at the time of death, you could petition to be appointed property executor in any county where they owned property.

Although the article What is probate? would help you understand the process; a probate attorney could also explain why and when it is necessary. A probate attorney can work as a liaison between executor and inheritance if needed, for example, in circumstances where both do not get along.

Plus, if you decide to work with a probate attorney, they can also help you sell real estate, distribute assets to beneficiaries, pay real estate taxes, handle property debts, and much more. Timely and appropriately managing those tasks can allow you to avoid the probate process, saving money and hassle.

Making an Online Will Georgia

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Making an Online Will Georgia

Although wills are individual, making an online will may sometimes ease the process. There’s no one online format that is best to use. You should make sure, though, that your will fully complies with jurisdiction regulations.

Additionally, you may want to consult a lawyer in certain situations. For example, if you think your will could be contested or want to disinherit your spouse, you should speak to an attorney. If you own a business or have a complex estate, it’s also probably wise to consult an estate attorney.

 

Finding Georgia Wills Online

 

To easily write your will, use or refer to one of the wills online. These can be good resources for guiding you on what to include in your will. However, every individual’s situation is different, from their finances to their property to who they want to include or exclude in the will.

With all of the nuance involved, your safest bet is to consult a lawyer who can assist in creating the will or at least review it when you have written a draft.

Modifying Wills in Georgia

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Modifying Wills in Georgia

Although it is possible to make additions or modifications to wills at any moment before the testator’s demise, certain steps must be followed. Generally, either a signed and witnessed codicil or a completely new will executed with the same formalities must be constructed reflecting the new wishes.

You may want to compose a new version of your Georgia last will and testament for several reasons. Significant changes that may require an upgrade include the following:

  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Divorce
  • Marriage
  • Relocating to another country

Also, if your spouse dies suddenly, it may be necessary to adjust your will.

 

Additional Georgia Will Laws

 

In addition to the prior regulations listed regarding will laws, there are specific methods by which the documents can be legally revoked before death.

The revocation may be either expressed or implied. To say that you are revoking a will, you would destroy it or write another will that nullifies the previous one. To imply a revocation, you would merely write a second will with inconsistent wishes to those specified in the prior one.

Your last will and testament are among the most important forms you’ll ever approve. To ensure your assets safely transfer to your beneficiary upon passing, you must understand the law and regulations. However, it’s not always easy to understand these complicated legal issues. In this case, a trusted probate attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure your wishes are carried out according to your decisions.

Making an Online Will Georgia

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Contact an Experienced GA Will Attorney

Contacting a professional probate attorney in Georgia is the best way to ensure your will follows all legal requirements and effectively represents your wishes.

A skilled lawyer can help you draft your will, review or modify an existing one, and even assist in navigating the probate process if necessary. With their knowledge and experience, they can guide you through any legal issues, allowing you to have peace of mind knowing your estate is in good hands.

Don’t hesitate to contact a Georgia will attorney for assistance with your last will and testament.

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