Wills Lawyers in Georgia Helping You Protect Your Estate
It’s normal to not want to think about what will happen to your belongings, children, and even pets after you pass, but avoiding estate planning can be a recipe for disaster. One of the most important parts of an estate plan is a will, but many people don’t understand what this document does or how to create one. Keep reading to get answers to common questions about wills and find out how Lunn Law LLC can help you be prepared.
A thorough estate plan is an important part of protecting your assets after your death, and a will plays a vital role in that process. If you need to create a will or you have an existing will that needs to be updated or changed, Lunn Law LLC can help. We understand the probate process and the related laws and can help you create a will that clearly outlines your wishes and is legally valid.
What Is a Wills Attorney?
A wills attorney is an estate planning lawyer who helps clients draft and modify wills. A will — also referred to as a last will and testament — is a document that specifies how you want your estate handled after your death. In particular, it may specify who is to receive your assets and who should be the executor of your state. A wills attorney works with clients to ensure that their wills are up to date and reflect their needs and wishes. One of these attorneys can also provide counsel on other possibilities, such as trusts, and how they can be used with wills to create a complete estate plan.
Do You Have to Have a Will?
You are not legally required to have a will, but it is in your best interests to do so. A legal will provides a way for you to express your wishes for your estate, including who should be the beneficiaries and where specific assets you go. For example, you can outline that a family heirloom goes to your child or that an antique tea cup is to be given to your grandchild.
While wills aren’t legally required, they do have legal requirements. A will must:
- Meet the form requirements of the state of Georgia
- Be created with “testamentary intent,” which means that it was created with the intention to function as a will
- Be created by someone who has the mental capacity to make decisions
- Be appropriate witnessed
What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
If a person dies without having created a will, it is called dying intestate. This means that there are no instructions on how the property and assets should be handled, and instead, the state’s default rules are applied. This includes determining who is the beneficiary of your estate. In general, a spouse is a beneficiary if there was no will. If the person didn’t have a spouse, the person’s children are the beneficiaries. In the case of no spouse or children, the estate is passed to the next of kin, which starts with the siblings of the deceased and goes outward depending on what family members are alive.
Dying without a will can also mean that your property doesn’t get to the intended beneficiaries. It’s common for people to tell a child or grandchild that they can have a painting, piece of furniture, or other items after they pass, but if you don’t have a will, there’s no way to ensure this happens. It is up to the executor of the state to determine how the assets are passed down in the event a person dies without a will. And when there is no will to name an executor, it’s possible for anyone who shows that they have the interest to be named executor.
Are There Guidelines for What Can Be Included in a Will?
Wills are legal documents, and as such, there are specific requirements for what can be included in a will. In general, a will needs to have instructions for whom the executor of the estate should be and how the deceased’s property and assets should be dispersed, and to which beneficiaries. It’s important to include all property when you are creating a will, including digital assets that many people forget about. These are things like social media accounts and cryptocurrency holdings that your beneficiaries may not even know that you have.
A will can also include instructions for who is to be the guardian of any minor children, what will happen to any surviving pets, and your end-of-life wishes. However, with all three of these issues, it’s important to keep in mind that a will must go through probate, and this process can take weeks to months. Some decisions may need to be made before the will has passed through probate. If this is a concern for you, talk to an attorney about what other options you may have to ensure that your wishes are carried out in a timely manner without having to wait for probate.
How Can I Reduce the Chances of a Will Being Contested?
In most cases, a will goes through probate without any issues and then is actioned on by the executor of the estate. However, it is possible for a will to be contested. When this happens, the process of getting the will through probate takes much longer, and it’s possible that the end result is not what you would have wanted. Here are some things to do to reduce the chances of your will being contested:
- Keep your will up to date. If your will is clearly out of date, such as naming a guardian for a child who is now very much an adult, it leaves more room for people to argue that the will is no longer reflective of your current wishes.
- Destroy any outdated copies of your will. Having multiple wills can make the probate process more confusing, even if the wills are dated.
- Tell your loved ones about your wishes. You may not want to tell your family members exactly what you are going to put in your will, but letting them know in advance what your plans are can eliminate surprises and potentially decrease the chances of someone wanting to contest the will.
- Work with an estate planning attorney. Wills aren’t necessarily complicated documents, but they do need to be created properly to be legally binding. Working with an attorney can also ensure you’ve covered everything, as lawyers are aware of the common issues that people miss and can help you be proactive.
If you’re concerned that a family member may try to contest your will, speak with one of the attorneys at our firm about your options.
What Other Types of Estate Planning Documents Do I Need?
A will is a vital document, but it’s just one piece of your estate plan. You may want to consider talking with an estate planning attorney about other documents, such as a power of attorney or advanced health care directive, which can ensure that your wishes are known and someone is in place to execute those wishes if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
A trust is another powerful estate planning tool that offers many advantages. Assets held in a trust don’t have to go through probate, which can make the process much quicker. Having a trust isn’t a replacement for a will, but many people can benefit from using both as part of their estate plans.
It’s easy to put off planning for what may happen in the future, but the truth is that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Don’t wait to ensure that you have all of the estate planning documents you need — including a will. The attorneys at Lunn Law LLC have experience helping clients create wills for a variety of situations, and we’re here to put our knowledge to work for you. Call 770-762-4628 to schedule a consultation and find out more.