If you wish to apportion your estate through a will in Georgia, you can reduce the risk of potential challenges by making sure to comply with technical requirements. Georgia law sets out four main requirements for a valid will. Failing to comply can cause courts to set your will aside.
While the basic technical requirements may appear simple, they often give rise to a range of legal questions and can depend on individual circumstances. For this reason, form wills are generally not a good option.
1. To be valid, the will must show testamentary intent. This means that the testator must have intended the document in question to function as a last will and testament. Most wills fulfill this requirement by including a line with an opening declaration. However, issues may arise in the case of later additions or modifications to the will that may not contain this declaration.
2. The person making the will must also be over the age of 14 and possess testamentary capacity at the time of executing the will. In this context, the mental ability to make a will does not have to equal optimal mental functioning. Generally, Georgia courts expect a testator to understand what a will is, know who his or her relatives are, know the type and extent of property he or she possesses, and understand the effects of the will’s provisions.
3. The will must also bear a valid signature by the testator. Courts tend to allow some fairly wide latitude in defining a signature for this purpose, as long as the testator clearly intended to sign the will. Thus, a signature consisting of a portion of the name, of initials and even of a mark can be valid, as can be a signature which another person helped to make due to the testator’s physical incapacity.
4. Two witnesses over the age of 14 must be present when the testator signs the will. They must also sign at that time.
Consulting a knowledgeable attorney can help you identify any likely issues and guard against future challenges by making sure to comply with legal requirements.