You may not think you need a last will and testament, but if you pass away without one, your family and/or friends will be faced with the task of sorting out what happens to any assets or property you own, and who will care for your spouse and possibly children. Additionally, your assets and property may end up passing to people you wouldn’t have chosen to inherit.
What Happens in Georgia if I Don’t Have a Will?
If you pass away without a will, this results in your estate being handled, and property distributed, according to the state’s intestacy laws.
Property will be divided between your spouse and your children (if there are any). If they are underage, they won’t have access to these assets until they turn 18. If there isn’t a spouse or children, assets will usually pass to other close relatives. So, if you aren’t married and don’t have children your property will likely go to your parents, your siblings, or even your grandparents if they are still alive. If none of these people are alive, or you don’t have siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and so on, more distant relatives might inherit your property. If the state cannot locate any blood relatives, your property might go to those who are related to you by marriage.
If the court cannot locate anyone who is related to you by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
Benefits of Having a Will
On the other hand, having a will in Georgia allows you to:
- Leave assets and property to people, organizations, or charity.
- Appoint a guardian of your choice (previously agreed to) who will care for any minor children you might have.
- Name someone you trust to manage assets and property you leave to your minor children.
- Name an executor who will make sure that the terms of your will are fulfilled. If you don’t name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to wind up your estate.
In Georgia, many people set up living trusts that transfer ownership of assets to a trust. You still have access to them, and can use property. When you die, these assets pass on to the beneficiaries you name in your will. The benefit is that it circumvents probate proceedings, saving both time and costs. However, even if you have a living trust, if you don’t have a will, any property that isn’t listed in the trust will be dealt with as discussed above.
Making a Will
The requirements for wills vary according to different states, and it is essential that any will follows a specific procedure. While you don’t need a lawyer to make a will in Georgia, and you don’t need to have it not notarized, it must be “self-proving” and it must be signed by witnesses.
The fact is that Georgia law incorporates quite simple probate laws and it is possible to limit probate expenses with a properly prepared will. But if these laws aren’t followed, you could end up with a will that isn’t valid. Another factor is that the will might be contested. This could result in assets and property going to someone you haven’t named in the will.
In reality, estate lawyers often end up fixing problems that emerge after people have died, simply because their wills were inadequate. Rather than adding to the stress and emotional trauma of your loved ones after your passing, it’s sensible to do some estate planning now and, if you don’t have a will, have one drawn up for you by a professional.
The wills & estate lawyers at Slepian, Schwartz & Landgaard understand how important it is to protect your assets. We specialize in drawing up wills and can establish trusts if you wish. Let us ensure that your wishes are carried out. Call us today to schedule a consultation.