Many people do not realize the importance of a Georgia Last Will and Testament or they realize the importance, but put it off until another day. By not having a Georgia Will, those with children and assets such as a home, bank accounts, or stocks and bonds are leaving important decisions to be made by Georgia Law and the local Probate Judge.
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Custody of Children / Guardianship
When both parents die without a Last Will and Testament, that would have appointed a Guardian of the children, the Probate Court is forced to make a determination of temporary legal custody and then a determination of permanent legal custody without the deceased parents’ input. Without a Georgia Will, the Probate Court Judge could make a decision that would not be what the parent would have chosen for their child. For example, if the parents believe that an uncle is not morally fit to raise the child, but appears to the Court to be an upstanding member of society, the Judge could unknowingly determine that it is in the best interest of the child to live with that uncle.
In another example, two family members could honestly believe that he or she would be the best guardian for the child and that living with him or her would be in the best interest of the child. If both family members presented themselves to the Probate Court, a lengthy court battle could ensue to determine who should serve as the child’s guardian.
The above can be avoided by simply nominating a guardian and at least one alternate guardian in the Georgia Last Will and Testament. Sometimes, even a close family friend may be better for the children than a blood relative, so the family friend must be designated in a Georgia Will or the Court is more likely to rule in favor of a family member rather than the more-fit friend.
Finances of the Minor Children
Under Georgia law, if parents die without a will, their children can become the heirs to property and money. The good news is that the Probate Court would likely appoint a Guardian ad Litemto oversee the child’s finances. However, once the child turns 18, he or she has a legal right to the finances. Many parents believe that a child of 18 years of age would not make wise financial decisions and can easily insert a Testamentary Trust provision which would prevent the youth from spending his or her inheritance in a matter of a few years. With a Testamentary Trust provision, you can ensure that your children do not waste the assets you have left behind in your estate.
In some instances, a person that would be a good caretaker of the children would not be a wise steward of the child’s finances. It may be necessary in your Georgia Will to nominate one person to be in charge of the children’s well-being and another to be in charge of the children’s finances.
Minimizing Disputes Between Children
Another consequence of dying without a will is the risk of disputes over assets by the children who are left behind. For instance, a mother may promise her daughter a valuable family heirloom. When the mother dies without a will, the son claims the family heirloom as his because he was unaware of the mother’s promise to his sister or he feels as though his sister has already received her fair share of the mother’s estate. This outcome can be avoided by designating who receives what special assets in a valid Will.
In conclusion, the importance of having a Georgia Last Will and Testament cannot be overstated. If you want your children and assets to be taken care of as you wish, rather than Georgia Probate Law deciding how your estate should be divided and distributed, then a Georgia Will is a must.
At A. Bishop Law, our Georgia Probate attorney welcomes anyone with any Georgia Will, Estate or Probate questions to Call or Email us today. Please remember that all initial consultations are free of charge.
About the attorney: Anne Bishop is a Georgia Probate attorney with A. Bishop Law in Gainesville, Georgia. A. Bishop Law handles matters regarding Wills, Estate Planning and Georgia Probate and can assist clients throughout Georgia including: Hall County (Gainesville, Oakwood, Flowery Branch), White County (Cleveland), Barrow County (Auburn, Bethlehem, Braselton, Carl, Statham, Winder), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Gwinnett County (Buford, Duluth, Sugar Hill, Lawrenceville), Jackson County (Braselton, Commerce, Hoschton, Jefferson, Pendergrass), Dawson County (Dawsonville), Habersham County (Demorest, Cornelia), Clarke County (Athens) and all of Northeast Georgia.
This article should not be considered nor relied upon as legal advice since it is only intended for general overview and informational purposes. Please consult with a Georgia Probate attorney on your specific situation in order to determine an appropriate legal course of action.