The short answer is yes. A handwritten will can be valid in the state of Georgia as long as it follows the specific guidelines that are in place.
In this article, we will discuss what makes a handwritten will valid or invalid and what you need to include to ensure that the wishes of your will can be enforced and your legacy is protected.
What is a Holographic Will?
A holographic will is another name for a handwritten will. Whether it is valid or not, depends upon each state’s laws. In some states, a person can write a simple paragraph of their wishes and it will be honored as a valid will.
In Georgia, however, a holographic will cannot be enforced unless it is also witnessed by two or more witnesses. When a surviving family member attempts to file a holographic that does not have two witness signatures, a judge will deem that the decedent passed away intestate. Intestate means that the decedent died without a valid will in place.
What Makes a Will Valid in Georgia?
There are several requirements that make a will valid and enforceable in Georgia. The first is that the person who created the will was at least 14 years of age at the time they created it.
The second is that the will was written (either handwritten or typed). It can not be audio or video recorded to be valid.
The creator of the will, or “testator,” must also be of sound mind or capacity and not influenced or coerced into creating the will.
The testator must sign the will or ask someone to sign on their behalf should they not be physically capable of signing it.
Two other people or witnesses must also sign the will. These witnesses must be at least 14 years old and must sign the document in the presence of the testator.
Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized in Georgia?
A notarized will is not required in Georgia. However, having a will notarized can help streamline and speed up the probate process. The testator and the witnesses can work with a notary to confirm the will’s validity. This step is called “self-proving.” In addition to speeding up the probate process, this extra step also provides additional insurance that the will isn’t contested.
All parties must be present (the testator and at least two witnesses) when the notary signs. If all four parties also sign an affidavit that proves who each party is and that they are aware of what they are competently signing, it will speed up the probate process.
What’s the Best Process for Creating a Will?
There is a relatively simple process for creating a will that is valid and will be honored by the courts in Georgia.
The first step is to gather information and prepare. Most individuals find that working with an experienced attorney helps them to carefully examine all aspects of their will and ensure that it is done correctly.
The testator will decide who the executor of the will should be. Choosing an executor should be done thoughtfully and with care. The executor of a will is tasked with many things. They should be a trustworthy and capable person who can handle and respect the long list of tasks required to perform upon your death. Some of these duties are: initiating the probate process, filing taxes, handling other general accounting tasks on behalf of the deceased, keeping an inventory of assets, locating essential documents, and more. This position is significant in the will process and should not be taken lightly.
The next step is gathering a list of your assets, which can include real estate, personal property, or anything you consider of value in your possession.
Create a list of beneficiaries, whether it be a person or an organization that you care about that you want assets transferred to upon your death. It is important to note that your beneficiaries should not be your witnesses.
What Is Important to Consider After a Will is Created?
Once a will has been accurately created, it is essential to keep it in a safe place. It is also beneficial to make sure your executor knows where the will is located, and they can access it when they need to.
It is crucial to review your will every few years to ensure that the facts included at the time of creation are still valid and relevant. As life happens, details can change, and they can broadly impact your legacy or your wishes. It is important to remember to review and edit your will as necessary throughout your life. You can choose to amend your will or revoke your original will and write a new one if that applies.
In conclusion, having a valid will is an essential step in our lives, regardless of our estate. With several years of experience, we at Bascom Law are confident that we can help you establish a valid and relevant will that provides explicit instructions for your wishes upon your death—giving peace of mind to you and your family when it matters most.