Are Handwritten Wills Valid in Georgia?

Are handwritten wills valid in Georgia?

Summary: Handwritten Wills, sometimes called Holographic Wills, are not valid in Georgia. The state requires wills to be written, signed by the testator, and properly witnessed.

The State of Georgia has some specific rules in place when it comes to a person’s Last Will and Testament.  According to OCGA § 53-4-20:

“(a) A will shall be in writing and shall be signed by the testator or by some other individual in the testator’s presence and at the testator’s express direction… [and] (b) A will shall be attested and subscribed in the presence of the testator by two or more competent witnesses.”

Handwritten Wills

In order for a will to be valid in Georgia, it must be written – either typed or by hand.  The will has to be signed by the testator (the person who drafted the will) or by someone he or she asked to sign the will on his or her behalf.  The will also must be “properly witnessed,” meaning that two competent people who are at least 14 years or older also signed the Last Will and Testament.  Georgia does not require testators to notarize his or her will, but having the document notarized does help speed up and/or simplify the probate process.

Holographic Wills

Georgia is one of the states which does NOT accept “holographic” wills.  Holographic wills are handwritten but do not include the signatures of two separate witnesses.  For example, if a person takes out a piece of paper, writes “I leave everything to my children” on it, and then tucks that paper into a dresser drawer for safekeeping, that is a holographic will and is not valid in the state of Georgia.  (If that same person asked two neighbors to watch him/her sign the will, and then those neighbors signed the document as witnesses, the will would be valid).

If a family member or loved one finds a holographic will and files it with the probate court, the judge will rule that the holographic will is invalid and either 1) apply the terms of a previous will, if one exists, or 2) decide that the person died intestate.  “Intestate” means that a person died without a will in place, and Georgia’s succession laws (who inherits what, in what order) will apply.

Having an invalid will means that a person’s wishes are not being honored.  It can also lead to problems down the line for any family members or other beneficiaries.  If you have questions about Georgia’s requirements for wills, or if you would like help drafting a will, please give us a call at (404) 736 – 6066 or visit our website EstateLawAtlanta.com.

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