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Do You have a Valid Will?

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In a recent article prepared by the Probate Court of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, the probate court stated that, "The wisest money a person may spend for an attorney is for the preparation of a will and related estate planning documents."¹ This article is designed to inform its readers of the importance of having a will prepared as well as other important documents that are necessary for the effective administration of a person's estate after death.

It has been estimated that anywhere between sixty to seventy percent of all people in this country are without a current, valid will. There are many factors that contribute to this. Some believe that they do not have enough assets or money that necessitates preparing a will. Others feel as though having a will prepared by an attorney may be too costly. Still, others may even be without a will because they are too busy and cannot find the time to make an
appointment to meet with an attorney. However, no matter what excuse a person may have up to this point, a will may be the best money a person spends, saving their estate and loved ones a lot of time, frustration and costs.

The greatest advantage to creating a will is that you are in control of what happens to your property and, if you have loved ones, what happens to them after you die. Having a will eliminates a lot of confusion and uncertainty that plagues the estate of a person that is left without a will. How would you feel if a stranger was appointed by a court to be in charge of distributing all of your property? How would that stranger know of your intent and wishes as to  who receives that property? The court would appoint an Administrator who would distribute your estate according to a strict, statutory standard, allowing for no input from loved ones and others. This can be easily avoided!

In Georgia, any competent person over the age of fourteen can execute a will. Also, unlike in other states, the will must be in writing and witnessed by at least two witnesses. A will should set forth the person that you wish to serve as the Executor of the will, the person who will serve as Trustee of any property that is specifically left "in trust," and the will should provide for the appointment of a guardian if there are any minor children. With those appointments, it is advisable to appoint additional persons should those listed above refuse to or be unable to serve in their assigned capacities.

The will is an opportunity for the maker to dispose of his or her property in a manner that is consistent with the maker's intentions. If the maker of the will wishes to leave a specific item to a relative, friend or loved one, Georgia law allows the maker to specifically leave such items. It is important to inform those that are listed in the will of what the specific roles and responsibilities will be in the event that the Testator dies. Prior to executing your will, it is important to ensure that those listed in the will are willing and able to serve. Further, it is important to ensure that loved ones are aware of the existence of the will, as well as knowing where it is located. Also, any specific funeral arrangements should be communicated to loved ones or others due to the fact that most people turn to the will after the funeral of the Testator is over.

Finally, a person's will should be reviewed every few years and upon any life changing event. There are various events that could invalidate a person's will, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, moving to or from another state and adoption. Additionally, as the appointed Executor, Trustee and Guardian retire or have other life changing occurrences, their appointments should be reconsidered. Further, a proper review of the will can eliminate any possible challenges to the will once the will is probated.

Steve Mills is the managing partner in the law firm of Mills & Hoopes, LLC, in Lawrenceville, Georgia. For more information on our legal services or your legal needs in areas such as contractual matters, litigation, commercial real estate, immigration, environmental matters, wills, divorce and family matters, personal injury, collections, small claims, landlord tenant or any criminal matters, please visit out website www.millshoopeslaw.com 

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