Why Do You Need a Will?

“Why do I need a Will?” is a question that I get asked fairly often.  I think everyone understands fundamentally what a Will is.  In this article I am going to briefly explain the legal requirements for a valid Will in Georgia and then list fivespecific reasons that you should have a Will.

A Will is the written expression or direction to one’s family of their wishes regarding the distribution of their property and management of their affairs after they die.  In Georgia you must be fourteen years old to make a Will.  A valid Will must be in writing and must be signed by the person making the Will.  Two witnesses must witness the signing of the Will and sign the Will themselves.

Why do you need a Will?

Reason 1 – Creating a valid Will ensures that your property will be distributed according to your wishes after your death.  If you don’t make a valid Will while living, when you die your property is going to be distributed per the terms of Georgia law.  This process is called “intestate succession” and it makes no allowances for your personal wishes.

Reason 2 – Creating a valid Will allows you to select the person or persons who you want to be in charge of the management of your estate.  This person is called the “Executor”.  The Executor gathers your assets, manages your estate, pays your debts, and distributes your property according to the law and the terms of your Will.  Without a Will, the Court will select the person who will be the representative of your estate.

Reason 3 – A properly drafted Will can make the Probate process cheaper and more efficient for your family.  For example, in your Will you can relieve your Executor of having to post a bond and file inventories and returns with the Probate Court.  In your Will you can also grant certain powers or authority to your Executor so that they do not have to petition the Probate Court to take certain actions on behalf of the estate.

Reason 4 – You can create a “testamentary trust” within your Will rather than leaving properly directly to certain beneficiaries.  For example, if you have minor children you will need to create a trust to receive their share of your estate as children cannot legally inherit property directly.  This also allows you to select the person who you want to manage the Trust for your child’s benefit.  This person is called a “trustee”.  Testamentary trusts also work well as a planning tool if you have a beneficiary who is irresponsible with money or a beneficiary who is disabled and is receiving government benefits.

Reason 5 – If you have minor children you can state in your Will who you prefer to serve as their guardian if one is ever needed.  If you have created a valid Will and named a person to serve as guardian for your minor child the Court will respect your wishes and show preference to the named individual in guardianship proceedings.