You need a will!
First off, you need a will. Everybody needs a will. No exceptions. We get calls at least once a day from people whose family member died without a will. This can cause huge problems.
Basically, a will (also known as a “Last Will and Testament”) is a legal document that states your wishes regarding the distribution of your real and personal property when you die. It also provides for the care of children through the appointment of a guardian and trustee.
If you don't have a properly made will, your property will be distributed according to the state of Georgia and a judge – not your wishes.
A valid Georgia will must contain the following features:
- It must be in writing. (Oral wills are invalid.)
- It must be signed at the end of the document.
- You need witnesses. Two people have to witness it and be present at the time of signing. These two people must acknowledge they were present and must sign the will as witnesses. But the two people don't have to be together at the same time of signing.
What is the purpose of a will?
The main purpose of your Last Will and Testament is to legally distribute any property you own in the event of your death. But a will is also used to:
- Make sure your spouse or partner receives your possessions. This needs to be specified in the will so that there is no doubt of your intent.
- To appoint a legal guardian and trustee for any children who are minors (classified as aged under 18) at the time of your death. A guardian makes decisions regarding raising the child, and the trustee makes financial decisions.
- Appointing an executor to make sure that your wishes are followed.
- Specify your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are those people who get stuff under the will when you die. That includes personal and real property.
- Some people make specific bequests such as collectibles, artwork, jewelry, guns, cars or family heirlooms. They may also make charitable donations thru the will.
- Your specific funeral wishes. Some people want to be buried and others want to be cremated.
Why do you need a will?
- Without a valid and legal will, the state of Georgia will determine what happens to your assets.
- A correctly written Last Will and Testament will help your family avoid a lengthy and expensive probate process. That's why we will draft a clear and concise will so your wishes are perfectly known.
- You may want to disinherit any individual you don't want to benefit from your death.
- Your new will supersedes any previous versions and, once properly signed, revokes any prior will that may exist.
- A will is only binding after death. Before your death, it has no authority.
Can a will be void or invalid?
Yes, a will can be considered legally void or invalid. A will can be found invalid if any of the following are found to have played a part in its origin:
The impact of mental illness
Many millions of Americans suffer from mental illness.
Having a mental illness or disease does not automatically mean a person lacks the required mental capacity to make a will. If it can be demonstrated that the person has periods of lucidity, they may still be competent to sign a will during one of those periods.
Millions of people suffer from dementia. If they were able to engage in estate planning before the symptoms began they may still be able to create a Last Will and Testament. If you or a loved one has dementia or another mental illness that impacts their legal capacity, it may not be too late. It is wise to consult an estate planning attorney in Georgia to determine whether a person meets the criteria to be considered competent.
Temporary incapacity does not necessarily prevent creating a Last Will and Testament
Many times, legal incapacity may only be temporary.
An individual's legal capacity can return when the condition or trauma that caused the incapacity has been resolved. Intoxication, for example, is a temporary condition that causes legal incapacity. But that is resolved once the person becomes sober. A minor might be incompetent, but ends when the person reaches the age of majority.
Even a severe medical condition such as a state of unconsciousness or coma can also be temporary. His or her ability to make decisions can also return when the condition or trauma that caused incapacity has been resolved.
What does my estate include?
Your estate is comprised of everything that you own, located anywhere in the world, including:
- Your home or any other real estate that you own
- Your share of any joint bank or brokerage accounts
- Any property owned by a trust, over which you have a significant control
- The full value of your retirement accounts
- Your business
Who can get my assets and property?
That's completely up to you. Under your will we can help you divide up your property and assets in any way you want. Your beneficiaries can include:
- any friends you wish to include
- family members
- charities of all different types
- any other organization you want
Who are beneficiaries in a will?
In the most general sense, a beneficiary is anyone or any group that benefits or is advantaged under your will. This includes any person or organization that gets any assets under the terms of your will.
Who is a "testator"?
A testator is the author of a Last Will & Testament. The person who makes a will is called the ‘testator' as he is “attesting” to his wishes, which are set forth in his will. It is actually a gender neutral term and can refer to a male or a female. However, when referring to a female, it is not uncommon to see the word (‘testatrix') used, particularly in older wills.
Let's say you don't make a will. What happens then?
If you don't make a Last Will and Testament or if you draft it incorrectly and it is deemed invalid, you will be declared intestate after you die. If this happens, the intestacy laws of Georgia and a judge will determine who gets what from your estate.
Without a proper, valid will, your estate will go to probate and the court will appoint an administrator. A person appointed by a court to administer an intestate estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy is known as an administrator.
What about my pets?
People love their pets. Whether you have a dog, cat, bird, horse or other animal, you can set aside funds specifically for their care and upkeep. This is now commonly done by many animal lovers in Georgia.
What if I get divorced?
If you are going to get divorced, in the process of getting a divorce, or you are now divorced, you need to change your will immediately. If you don't, your for husband or wife can inherit from you. They can get your money, real property, and everything else.
What about my internet accounts?
The internet is everywhere. People have many internet accounts. It's a good idea to list the accounts you have and the passwords and who you want to control them after you die. You can provide this information to the executor of your estate.
You can disinherit someone
You decide who gets things under your will. Many individuals don't want to leave property to people who are lazy, foolish, big spenders, or someone they just dislike. It's up to you. And we'll help you do it properly.
Don't make mistakes. Or your will can be found invalid.
Mistakes can mean your will is invalid. Then it won't do what you want it to do. Not only can errors invalidate your will, they can also cost you a lot of money. We'll make sure your will is drafted properly so you don't have a lot of problems.
Many people don't have a will. That's a huge mistake!
A will is hugely important. But many people never get a will. In fact, more than 50% of people don't have a will. That only hurts their loved ones, relatives, and friends.
You can name a guardian and a trustee for your children thru your will
If you have minor children, you need a will. Thru your will, you can name a guardian and trustee for your kids.
The guardian will be the person who will have actual physical custody of your children. The guardian will make decisions about:
- your children's health care
- religious upbringing
The trustee is the person who has legal authority over the money your child inherits. Of course, you want to choose your child's guardian and trustee very carefully. You want to choose trustworthy people of good character.
When should you review your will?
You should review your Last Will and Testament on a periodic basis to be sure that your inheritance planning is consistent with your needs and goals. Your needs and goals can change, of course. Here are some events that may cause a review of your estate plan:
Change of marital status: Marriage, separation or divorce
New child: Birth or adoption of a child
Death of an heir or a person designated as a guardian, trustee or executor
A move to another state
Significant changes in your health
Significant changes in your financial condition (both good and bad)
What law will apply for my Last Will and Testament?
Should I name a beloved pet as a beneficiary in my will?
No, you should not name a pet as a beneficiary. Rather, you should provide instructions to your executor to find good care for your pet and leave money for the pet's upkeep.
What's a Specific Gift?
- I give my diamond watch to my son, Joe Roberts.
- I give $10,000.00 to my friend, Jill Jones.
Everything that is not given away as a specific gift forms what's called the residue of the estate.
What about step-children?
Unless you have legally adopted them, stepchildren are not your natural heirs under the law. They are actaully not included if you leave property to "all my children." Stepchildren must be named as beneficiaries in your will if you want to leave them something.
What is Intestacy?
If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed as determined by Georgia's intestacy laws. If that happens, your possessions will go first to your spouse and children if you have them; if not, your nearest living relatives will be next in line to inherit from you – your parents, grandchildren, siblings, and so on. If you are found to have no living relatives at all, the state of Georgia will take your property.
How long is my will good?
A last will and testament is “good” until it is changed or revoked in the manner required by Georgia law. Your will may be changed as often as you desire while you are of sound mind and not under undue influence, duress, or fraud, provided it is changed in the required manner.
Changes in important circumstances after the execution of the will, such as deaths, divorce, marriage, birth of children, or even a substantial change in the nature or amount of your estate (perhaps the value of your estate has dramatically increased or been reduced), may possibly raise questions as to the adequacy of your will. All changes require a careful analysis and reconsideration of all the provisions of your will and may make it advisable to change the will to conform to the new situation.
When Atlanta Legal Wills are the Right Solution
There are many factors when considering writing a will. It's important to have a skilled and experienced estate planning attorney working on your behalf. Following are some typical considerations:
- Expense: Legal wills in Roswell, GA, are relatively inexpensive to create
- Simplicity: Simple estates and even complex estates can often be well-protected and served with a last will and testament is in place
- Maintenance: Although a will can be revised at any time, it requires no maintenance to remain effective
Experienced And Personalized Representation
Attorneys Bill Sherman & Valerie Sherman have been helping clients with estate and probate matters for many years. They work closely with clients to identify their specific estate goals and provide a relaxed, comforting office setting in which clients can feel confident talking about their estate and personal matters. They place an emphasis on responsiveness and efficiency.
We work hard to ensure that:
- We are easily accessible to our clients
- We quickly return all phone calls and emails
- Our clients understand their rights
- We serve as a guide for our clients, helping them to navigate difficult legal matters
Call attorneys Valerie Sherman & Bill Sherman at 678-215-4106 to schedule a consultation at one of our convenient office locations in Atlanta, Roswell, and Cumming, Georgia.