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Basic requirements for a valid will in Georgia

Making a will that reflects your wishes and disposes of your property effectively can take a lot of careful thought and planning. Many people understandably tend to focus on the content of the will.

However, Georgia law does have certain basic requirements. If your will does not meet them, the probate court may deem it invalid, in which case your property can end up distributed according to intestacy laws rather than your wishes.

Who can make a will

Some important requirements apply to the person making the will, or the testator. The testator must be at least 14 years old and possess the mental capacity to know the type of property he or she owns, the meaning of leaving it to various beneficiaries through a will, and recognize his or her family members. The testator must also understand the meaning of the provisions in his or her will.

Mental capacity

This mental capacity requirement is generally lower than that legally required for other matters, such as entering into a contract. Thus, a court's finding of incapacity for another purpose does not automatically mean this person cannot make a will.

Potential issues

As they age, many people experience cognitive decline. Symptoms of such decline, even with an official diagnosis of a condition such as Alzheimer's, also do not automatically preclude making a will. However, the existence of such symptoms or a previous finding of incapacity will usually be a good reason for the court to examine this issue carefully. While, ideally, everyone would make a will at a time where mental capacity is not at all in doubt, many people delay making a will or feel the need to make changes after problems begin. An experienced attorney can suggest ways to support the argument that a testator, though suffering from some issues, had the mental capacity the law requires.

Technical requirements

Georgia wills must be in writing and the testator must sign it; if he or she is unable to do so, another person can sign at his or her direction. At least two people over the age of 14 must witness the signature, and those witnesses must also sign on the will. Valid witnesses under Georgia law must know right from wrong and be able to testify about the circumstances of the signing.

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At Hodges Law Firm, we handle a wide range of legal issues for clients throughout the Atlanta area, including elder law, estate planning, probate, Medicaid planning and protection, asset protection, litigation, and business law and services. We are knowledgeable in the law and understand the real life implications of legal actions.