DIFFICULTY: You may wish to consult a lawyer but you can do it yourself
Initial Filing Fee: $0
A will is designed as a formal document that discusses how to distribute your estate after you have passed away, making you the teastor of the will. The “Estate” or items covered in a will include land (real property), personal property such as stocks, bank accounts, vehicles, furniture and intangible property or your rights to other things like a partnership in a company. All of these legal items need to be divided up through a process called probate. The clearer your will, the less time everything will live in probate.
In Georgia, like in many other states, if you die without a will the estate will be divided up according to Georgia law. A spouse would receive everything. If you die without a spouse, your children would divide everything. If you have no known heirs, everything goes to the state. Your will stops this from happening as you will:
• Name the people your property will go to, exactly
• Make divisions for any financial items left behind
• Name someone to carry out your wishes, including paying out all your expenses
• Determine if anything will go to charity
• Name guardians for any children under the age of 18
Even after you have created your will you should go back often to make appropriate changes. This includes removing items you get rid of or adding new important items. The will binds all your materials and helps your family avoid fighting and ambiguity after your demise.
Step 1: Determine if You are Eligible to Write a Will
Georgia has a lower age requirement for writing a will. Most states require you be 18 but you can write a will if you are only 14 in Georgia. You must decide to write the will of your own free will. You must sign the will yourself in front of at least two competent witnesses. Some old material says the will has to be in your own handwriting, but you can have it all typed as long as each page is initialed and you have signed each page as well.
Step 2: Compose Your Will
Write the will, including all your property and how it should be left amongst your friends and family. If you own property jointly, you cannot will it to anyone, it immediately goes to the co-owner upon your demise. The only way to avoid this in Georgia is to have the person’s name as a co-owner as well. Make sure to allow for your expenses and debts to be paid off with the estate before the finances are divided amongst your heirs.
Be clear about all parts of your property. In order to simplify things you can make blanket statements such as leaving all the personal belongings in a particular house to one person. You can leave all vehicles to another. It all depends on the type of valuable items you have and how you wish to divide them. Some wills require that everything be liquidated and the money split between heirs. That does not prohibit one of the heirs from buying something they find particular valuable or sentimental.
Leave clear instructions in regards to safes or safety deposit boxes. This is the only way anyone will be able to get into the safety deposit box in order to sort through the items inside. You may be surprised at just how many things you have to account for once you really start going through all that you own.
Step 3: Sign the Will in Front of Witnesses
You need to sign your will in front of two witnesses. The witnesses must be 18 or older and it is advisable to get it notarized but not imperative. The witnesses need to be people who are not receiving anything from the will, this is part of knowing that you did not sign the will under duress.
Step 4: Revise the Will
You should go over your will any time you make large purchases or there are significant changes to your family or your finances. You will want to update guardianship of children, change the executor or even alter how things are divided. You can do this to your will at any time and it just needs to be resigned. There is no limit to the number of times you can update a will. It can be done as a amendment or you can reprint the entire document.
Step 5:Deliver the Will
You want multiple copies of the will to exist. Most counties will allow you to store a copy of your will at the records house for a nominal fee. You should keep a copy with you, a copy in a safe other location and one family member should also maintain a current copy of your latest will. This ensures it will be found when the time comes.