All adults, regardless of wealth, should have a properly drafted and executed will. A will is necessary for ensuring that your estate is distributed as you wish. A will can also save money and time in administering your estate once you are gone, which will lessen the burden on your beneficiaries and maximize the legacy left for distribution.

Who Needs a Will?

Every adult should have a will. Whether you have few assets, many assets, minor children, no children, or specific desires about who gets your property, you should have a will.

What are the Reasons to Have a Will?

  • In a will, parents can name whom they want to be the guardian over their minor children.
  • With the frequency of multiple marriages in today’s society, a will with appropriate trust provisions may be helpful in ensuring that your assets ultimately pass to your designated beneficiaries.
  • A will allows you to decide how your property will be distributed and it relieves others of that burden. It helps ensure your wishes will be honored.
  • A will may help you to lessen estate taxes imposed upon your death.
  • Your will can direct that your assets pass to a trust for your beneficiaries instead of outright distribution to a beneficiary. Trusts may assist in protecting assets from the claims of creditors, unwise choices made by beneficiaries, and provide for minor children. Trusts are very useful in estate tax planning.
  • A will lets you choose the individual or entity who will serve as executor of your estate. The executor will manage and settle your estate according to the law and your desires expressed in your will. Without a will, your beneficiaries would have to petition the court for an administrator to serve, which can be expensive and invite disagreement among heirs to whom you may not wish to inherit your property.
  • A will lets you grant your executor full power to sell your property and liquidate your assets without having to petition the court for permission.
  • A will enables you to eliminate unnecessary expenses and court costs involved in the administration of an estate without a will. For instance, bond premiums can be avoided by stating that you desire that the executor serve without a bond.
  • You can make gifts to charity through your will.

What are the Formal Requirements for a Will?

A will is the legal declaration of a person's intention for the disposition of his or her property after his or her death. The laws of each state set forth the formal requirements for a legal will. In Georgia:  

  • You, the maker of the will (called the testator), must be at least 14 years old.
  • You must be of sufficient mind and memory to realize you are making a will disposing of your property.
  • The will must be in writing.
  • The will must be signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two witnesses in the special manner provided by law. These witnesses should not be persons who are designated to take property under your will or a relative.
  • The execution of the will must obey certain technical formalities.

May a Person Dispose of His or Her Property in Any Way He or She Wishes by a Will?

A testator, by his or her will, may make any disposition of his or her property not inconsistent with the laws or contrary to the policy of the state of Georgia. A testator may bequeath his or her entire estate to charities, strangers or in trust for beloved pets, to the exclusion of his or her spouse and children. In such cases, however, the disinherited spouse or children could seek to challenge the will if appropriate grounds exist for a competency or undue influence claim, or petition the court for a limited distribution to them regardless of what the will provides.

Summary

Wills are not only for the well-to-do, they are important for all adults who are interested in ensuring that their wishes are respected upon death, and that their estates pass to their designated beneficiaries as quickly, as painlessly and as intact as possible. Wills are a component of successful estate planning, which seeks to transfer the individual's estate as they desire, avoid unnecessary costs and minimize estate taxes.