While many provisions regarding wills in Georgia are similar to those in other states, Georgia inheritance law has a few twists. The age to legally make a will in Georgia is one of the youngest in the country, and the state gives surviving spouses and minor children the right to apply for a "year's support award" that is actually a transfer of estate property free of any debt or encumbrance.
Georgia Will Requirements
Many states make residents wait until they reach the age of 18 to make a valid will, but Georgia is not among them. If you are 14 years of age in Georgia and competent, you can make a will. Wills must be in writing to be valid.
The person making the will is the testator and, under the Georgia code, the testator must sign the will freely and voluntarily in front of two witnesses. The witnesses must then sign the will in the presence of the testator.
It is not necessary to notarize the signatures on the will. However, if you do, you can make a self-proving will that speeds up probate. If you make a self-proving will, the witnesses do not need to appear in court and testify about the making of the will.
Always review your will if a major life event occurs, like a marriage, divorce or birth of a child. If you don't change your will at these moments, certain parts of your bequests -- such as those made to a spouse you have now divorced -- may be invalidated under the law.
Under Georgia law, a surviving spouse or minor children can apply for what is known as a "year's support award" from the deceased's estate. Despite the name, the year's support award is actually a permanent award of property.
A spouse cannot apply for a year's support if she has remarried. The children cannot apply for the award if they are 18 years or older or are married. They must apply to the probate court for this award within two years from the date of death. Although the property award is intended to support the remaining family for one year, there is no limit to how much can be requested. However, other beneficiaries of the will can oppose the award petition. The spouse and children take year's support assets free of all encumbrances and estate debts.
Revoking a Will in Georgia
A will in Georgia is valid unless and until you revoke it, and you can revoke it at any time in your life as long as you remain competent. The best way to revoke a will is to draft and sign a new one with the same legal formalities such as witnesses. However, you can also revoke a will by ripping it apart or destroying it with the intent to revoke it.
Dying Without a Will in Georgia
If the deceased does not leave a valid will in Georgia, the estate property must be distributed to close family members according to the state's intestate succession statute. Who inherits what depends on which relatives have survived, with preference given to a surviving spouse and surviving children.
If there is a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse gets the entire estate. If the children survive but the spouse does not, the children inherit everything. If both spouse and children survive, they split the estate equally, except that the spouse is entitled to at least one-third share of the estate.
If there is no surviving spouse or children, the parents of the deceased inherit in Georgia. In the absence of all of these relatives, the deceased's siblings inherit.