What Makes a Valid Will in Georgia?

A valid will is important for ensuring that your assets are distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries as you wish. Georgia law enumerates specific requirements that must be met for a will to be valid. The statutes concern the testator’s (the person who creates the will) age and mindset and how the will is executed. Several factors can invalidate your will, such as it being made because of duress or undue influence. If your will is believed or found to be invalid, heirs or beneficiaries may contest it and/or the court may distribute property based on intestate laws as opposed to how you wanted.

Because of the complexities involved in creating a will, it’s beneficial to have legal counsel while making yours. Reach out to a member of our Marietta team at Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C. by calling (770) 629-0154 or submitting an online contact form today.

Why Is It Important to Have a Valid Will?

A will is a legal document containing your wishes for how you want your property to be distributed after your passing. You can also include who you want to care for your minor children.

With your wishes made explicit in a will, you can ensure that the people you want to have specific items get them and that your children are looked after by someone you trust. Without a valid will, Georgia law will determine how your assets are distributed and who has guardianship over your children.

What Are the Requirements for a Valid Will in Georgia?

Your will must be valid for your property to be distributed according to your wishes.

The legal requirements for a valid will include the following:

  • Testator is of age: You must be 14 years of age or older to make a will in Georgia.
  • Testator’s competency: It must have been your desire and choice to create the will and have your property distributed to certain individuals.
  • Testator’s freedom of choice: You must have developed your will freely and voluntarily.
  • Written: Your will must be written, whether by hand or typed.
  • Testator’s signature: You must sign your will. If you are physically unable to provide your signature, you can have someone sign it on your behalf.
  • Witnessed: Two or more competent individuals, at least 14 years of age, must be in your presence when you create your will. They must also sign it.
  • Testator’s knowledge of contents: You must be aware of what your will contains.

Your will does not have to be notarized for it to be valid. However, having a notary witness the signing of your will can facilitate a more efficient probate process. Additionally, making your will self-proving, meaning that you have a notarized affidavit verifying the identity of you and your witnesses, can also make probate quicker.

What Happens If a Will Is Invalid?

The court cannot accept an invalid will. Thus, your property will not be distributed according to your wishes. Instead, it will be passed down based on intestate laws.

Intestate succession dictates that assets be distributed as follows:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Spouse and children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts/uncles
  • Cousins

Beneficiaries and heirs may also question the validity of a will. They may file documents with the court to contest it, triggering a lengthy and contentious court process.

Some of the reasons your will may be considered invalid include the following:

  • You were underage when you created it,
  • You established it while under duress or because of fraudulent practices, misrepresentation, or undue influence,
  • It is an audio or video recording, or
  • It is not signed by yourself or at least two witnesses.

A Lawyer Can Help Draft Your Will

A will helps protect your legacy after your passing. However, if it’s not valid, issues can arise concerning who gets what assets and who takes care of your children. A lawyer can assist in creating your will and ensuring that it aligns with Georgia’s statutes. Having a well-thought-out document that complies with the law can help your heirs and beneficiaries avoid disputes and receive the property you intended for them.

If you need help with your will, please speak with one of our Marietta lawyers at Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C. by contacting us at (770) 629-0154.