How to make a will in Georgia

A guide to Georgia wills

Elissa

By

Elissa Suh

Elissa Suh

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

Elissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

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A last will and testament is a legal document that contains instructions about who gets your property when you die and lets you choose a guardian for a minor child. A will is the first step to creating a solid estate plan, which can also include an advance directive and a living trust. You need a will in Georgia to make sure your loved ones get the assets you want them to have —  otherwise, a court may determine who gets what.

→ Live in another state? See our guide to making a will in your state

Can I write my own will in Georgia?

It's perfectly legal to make a will without a lawyer in Georgia, like through an online will making service, which is often cheaper. An estate attorney can charge as much as hundreds or thousands of dollars to prepare your will and the cost could be higher in the city than it would be in a smaller town. However, you may benefit from hiring a lawyer to draft your will in Georgia if you have a complex estate or many assets.

→ See when you should hire an estate attorney

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Last will and testament form

While you may be able to find a blank form to create a Georgia last will and testament online, keep in mind that free wills are typically broad, one-size-fits-all forms, which may leave more chances for the document to be challenged in court after you die. Additionally, these templates may not allow you to nominate a guardian or create a trust (testamentary trust) through your will.

Georgia last will and testament requirements

An invalid will won't pass muster in probate and will prove a headache to your loved ones after you've died. You must follow all the requirements set by the state law, which usually pertain to the person writing the will (the testator) and how the will is constructed and executed. 

The testator must be at least 14 years old and evidence testamentary capacity to write a will in Georgia. Individuals with a mental disability or who are subject to delusions may only make a will during "lucid intervals.” [1] §53-4-11

Georgia law requires at least two competent witnesses who are at least 14 years old to sign the will. A witness can also be a beneficiary of the will in Georgia, but they may have to forfeit their inheritance if there aren't two other disinterested witnesses. §53-4-22

The executor should be at least 18 years old (the state's age of majority). Felons are not explicitly barred from serving as an executor, but the court may request a background check on anyone you nominate. §53-6-1

Handwritten and oral wills

Georgia does not explicitly forbid wills written by hand, but they would only be valid when they are properly witnessed. This means they are not true holographic wills.

→ Learn more about the requirements of a valid will

Do you need to notarize a Georgia will?

Georgia wills do not need to be notarized in order to be valid — but if you want to make the will self-proved, like with an affidavit, then it must be notarized. A self-proving affidavit makes it so that your witnesses don't have to appear in court and after you've died to testify about watching you sign your will, so including one with your will can greatly ease the probate process for your loved ones. §53-4-24

→ Learn how to get a self-proving affidavit

Filing a will in Georgia

After the testator's death, their will should be filed at probate court in the county of the decedent's permanent residence. All Georgia wills eventually become part of the public record

The personal representative has five years to probate a will from the date they’re appointed. All paperwork can be found on the Georgia Supreme Court website. §53-5-3

→ Learn how to file to become executor of an estate

Dying without a will in Georgia

Without a will, the court will determine the deceased’s heirs based on state intestacy law, and those heirs may not be who they would’ve wanted. To prevent that from happening, you need to create an estate plan, which often includes a will. 

→ Learn more about what happens if die without a will

This is how much a surviving spouse receives in a few different circumstances when someone dies intestate: 

If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:

Surviving spouse's share

No children

Everything

Children

Estate is split evenly with children, but spouse is entitled to at least 1/3

Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the following people have the right to inherit based on intestate succession, which awards property to your next of kin

  • Children

  • Parents

  • Siblings of the decedent, or their children

  • Grandparents

  • Aunts and uncles of the decedent, or their children

For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their children by a per stirpes designation. §53-2-1

→ Learn more about what to do when someone dies

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References

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  1. Georgia Code

    . "

    Title 53

    ." Accessed December 29, 2021.

Author

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

Elissa Suh

Senior Editor & Disability Insurance Expert

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Elissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

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