Do-it-Yourself: Georgia Wills

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A will is a legal document that leaves directions about how to distribute your estate after your death. Without a written will, property passes by intestate succession. This means that you lose control over how your assets are divided because state law is enforced. Although it can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to have an attorney draft a will, the bare minimum legal requirements for a will in Georgia present an easy alternative of writing your will to a person who has a simple estate (e.g., no children, few assets).

Establish your competency in the first paragraph. After properly labelling the document "Last Will and Testament," state your name and current age. In order for a Georgia will to be valid, the testator must be at least 14 years of age when the will is written. Following your name and age, write a brief sentence stating that you are of sound mind and free from undue influence or duress. The goal is to leave no doubt that you sanely and voluntarily write your will. If you have any previous wills or codicils, indicate that those wills are revoked, and that the instant will is your operative will.

Identify the executor(s) who you authorize to distribute your estate in the second paragraph. The person(s) you appoint should be trustworthy both personally and fiscally. It is helpful to ask your desired executors if they are willing to play this role prior to naming them in your will. In any event, also identify alternate executors in the event that your original choices are unwilling or unable to serve in that capacity upon your death.

State the bequests your executor(s) should make upon your death in the third paragraph. If, at the time of death, you have outstanding debts, the probate court will instruct the executor(s) to pay any preferred creditors. Thereafter, any remaining funds will be distributed according to your wishes. When making a bequest, provide complete contact information for the beneficiary as well as a specific description of the gift you are making to that person. Your bequests should include all financial accounts as well as personal property such as family heirlooms. Also, charities may be intended beneficiaries. Finally, state whether you would like the executor to use estate funds to pay for any funeral expenses.

Enlist two persons to serve as witnesses to the execution of your will. Indicate their names, addresses, ages and competency in the fourth paragraph. In addition to being at least 14 years of age, the witnesses should be independent and have no financial stake in your will. Any gifts made to a beneficiary (or his spouse) who concurrently serves as a witness will be void, leaving that property prey to Georgia intestate law. The witnesses must be present when you sign and date your will.

Sign and date the document.

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About the Author

Robyn Lynne Schechter is a freelance writer currently living in Los Angeles, Calif. She has been an online contributor since 2007 on brandchannel.com, covering branding developments in the fashion, music, sports and entertainment industries. Schechter graduated from Hood College with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and is also a graduate of Albany Law School.

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