Basic Requirements for a Georgia Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 14 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind and memory.
Signature: A Georgia last will and testament must be in writing and must be signed by the testator or by some other individual in the testator’s presence and at the testator’s express direction.
Witnesses: Two witnesses or more (these witnesses should not receive property under the will) must sign a Georgia last will and testament in the testator’s presence.
Writing: A Georgia last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A will may make a disposition of property to any person that isnot inconsistent with the laws or contrary to the policy of the state of Georgia.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, Georgia laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
[A Georgia will] may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
[A Georgia will] may also be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator’s property and affairs from the time of death until an estate is settled.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
Property owned by the testator in a life estate may not be willed away upon the testator’s death.
A will cannot divert the proceeds of a life insurance policy to another beneficiary.
Providing for Pets
Georgia law currently does not have specific statutes pertaining to providing care for pets. However, the testator may specify a beneficiary as the new owner of a pet.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Georgia will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Georgia will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Georgia laws.
Revoking a Will
A testator may expressly or impliedly revoke a Georgia will and testament.
An express revocation occurs when the testator by writing or action expressly annuls a will. An express revocation occurs with any destruction or obliteration of the will done by the testator with intent to revoke or by another at the testator’s direction. An express revocation takes effect instantly.
An implied revocation results from the execution of a subsequent inconsistent (different terms in the will compared to the original will) will that does not by its terms expressly revoke the previous will. An implied revocation takes effect only when the subsequent inconsistent will becomes effective. If the subsequent, inconsistent will fails to become effective from any cause, the implied revocation is not completed.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Georgia last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, and distribute property as designated in the Georgia last will.
According to the Georgia Probate website, Georgia’s estate tax on the estate covered by a Georgia last will is equal to the death tax credit under Federal estate tax system. Georgia does not have its own estate tax form, and the Federal estate tax form should be used if estate taxes are due within 9 months after the testator’s death.
It is extremely important to make a Georgia will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Georgia laws.
For example, a spouse will receive the entire estate when no children or parents exist at the time of the decedent’s death. When only children survive after the death, then the children share the property in equal amounts.
If you make a Georgia will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.