Who Needs a Will?
The short answer is “nearly everyone.” Almost all adults can benefit from having a will. The reason is that the things that seem simple now become very tangled when you pass on – and you won’t be there to sort it out. Instead, your family and the probate court must follow rigid statutory guidelines that may be detrimental to everyone involved. Generally, people have similar responses when they are asked about getting a will drafted:
“I don’t have any property.”
Most people underestimate the amount of property they have which would require probate. They also fail to anticipate acquiring property in the future. Even worse, many people have unclaimed property they do not know about. Drafting a will before owning property ensures that the property is protected as soon as you obtain it. Numerous stories exist of people passing away with intentions of getting a will before getting around to it. Most of those times are after they have acquired valuable property.
“Doesn’t everything go to my spouse?”
Sure – if you stay married and do not have children. But what if you get a divorce? What if your spouse dies? What if you and your spouse die in a common accident, such as a car wreck? These issues are easily addressed in a will but can be disastrous if you die intestate (without a will).
“I already have a will from years ago.”
That’s great! You are ahead of the curve! However, the law is always changing. New legal developments can affect the validity of part or all of your will. Most major life events can also justify an update. Have you moved out of state? You should update your will. Have you married or divorced since you drafted your will? You NEED to update your will immediately. Have you had children? Time to update your will. As you can see, your will needs to grow with you and your life.
“My family can sort it out. They know what I want.”
A grieving family member does not need that burden. Furthermore, grieving relatives are generally incapable of thinking logically and clearly during this time. People often become extremely attached to insignificant pieces of property as a way of hanging on to their lost loved one. Distant relatives that you may not even know often come from nowhere claiming to deserve a piece of the pie. At best, these issues can cause stress, delay, and emotional pain. At worst, they can tie up an estate for years costing thousands of dollars in legal fees and draining your estate of value.
What Does a Will Do?
A will dictates how your heirs share your estate when you die. It tells the probate court exactly what you want to happen and would ask for if you were alive to tell them. It removes many of the questions that arise when you die. Besides detailing how to divide your property generally, a will has many other functions. It designates an individual to be responsible for administering your estate. This person is called a personal representative now but was previously called an executor/executrix or just administrator. A will can also explain how to give specific items to specific people (“special bequests”). It can nominate individuals to become legal guardian of your children. The will can nominate a trustee to manage property for others, especially minors. Wills can contain many other types of requests depending on the testator’s desires.
What If I Don’t Have a Will When I Die?
This is where disaster often strikes. Administering estates is always difficult because the person in question is no longer alive to answer questions or give guidance. Without a will, these problems grow exponentially.
Georgia has a long list of laws that describe what to do when a person dies. Because these laws are generic, they often do not apply easily to a specific situation. They are often contrary to your or your family’s wishes. Furthermore, they carry inconvenient requirements that can burden your loved ones. For instance, your personal representative may have to put up bond – a large sum of money to make sure they do a good job in administering the estate. In short, a group of people who have never met you and know nothing about you will be deciding the fate of everything you have. These additional burdens will cost your family more money and take significantly more time than if you had a will.
What Should I Do Instead?
Get a will. It’s actually quite easy. However, resist the temptation to draft a will yourself or use a form you found online. Although this is usually better than having no will at all, it is only a marginal improvement. A quality will contains paragraphs that the untrained individual would consider unnecessary or inapplicable. These paragraphs exist for a reason – hundreds of years of cases make them necessary to ensure your will is lawful now and stays lawful for the foreseeable future. Most online forms contain outdated law or are inapplicable to your state. At best, they are generic and do not apply to your life, family, and circumstances.
Get a custom will drafted and feel confident that your loved ones are safe. The fee is usually a few hundred dollars, and Lankford & Moore Law’s attorneys will guide you through every section of the will to make sure the court follows your wishes. You will have an attorney to answer your questions – not a staff member. Lankford & Moore Law’s attorneys will also make sure the will is signed, witnessed, and notarized in accordance to Georgia law. You get to walk out of the Lankford & Moore Law office feeling confident that your wishes are secure.