On what grounds can a will be contested? Avoid will disputes in Georgia by contacting The Law Office of Paul Black for qualified legal counsel.
Author: Paul Black
Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: May 15, 2023.
Georgia Will Dispute Law
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No one wants to die, but the reality remains that death is inevitable for everyone. You don’t want your heirs fighting over your will in probate court when you are gone. It is possible, however, that it could happen.
The probate process can seem like a nightmare of a waste of time and resources. But, probate laws differ from state to state. Probate laws are more friendly in Georgia than in many other states.
With Georgia estate planning, heirs can access their inheritance without going through the stress of probate court. Understanding the laws and getting the right legal assistance in Georgia can save your heirs from will disputes.
Heirs can skip the probate process in Georgia with no estate dollar value limitation if:
The testator has no outstanding debts
There is no last will
All heirs agree with the distribution plan
There is unlikely to be a dispute if these conditions are met. A court petition can be filed by an estate representative stating that administration is not necessary. There are, however, some estates that are not so straightforward.
How can you avoid a will contest when your estate is complex? Who can contest your will, and how can they do so? The answers to these questions will help you plan your Georgia estate properly and prevent a will contest.
Who Can Dispute a Will?
Under Georgia law, any interested party connected to the deceased can file a will caveat. This interested party could be a family member, heir, beneficiary, creditor, or estate executor. Probate is the only process where the party will have to prove their case. The beneficiaries must show that prior wills included them or that the will should have included them.
Reasons for Georgia Will Dispute Cases
A number of different reasons can trigger disputes over wills. A contested will would be costly and time-consuming. In Georgia, however, only five reasons are legally recognized.
Mental Capacity of the Testator
If the testator had dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or any mental illness, it could be grounds to file a will caveat. It is also possible to contest a will if the testator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, the age or feebleness of the testator will not suffice as proof of lack of capacity.
If the testator was under duress or coercion at the time of signing the will, it is grounds for a will dispute. The challenger must prove that a family member, caregiver, or friend manipulated the testator to change their will for their benefit under the wrong circumstances.
If the testator created their will under pretenses, someone could challenge the will. However, the challenger will have to show proof of the fraud. Without proof, the will cannot be invalidated.
Revocation by New Will Creation
A challenger can argue that the court does not have the testator’s final will. All prior wills are revoked at the creation of a new will unless the testator lacked capacity, was under fraud, or had undue influence at the time of signing.
If a challenger can prove that a will was not executed properly, the will can be invalidated. In Georgia, a valid will must have the signatures of two witnesses and the testator. If any of the requirements for a valid will in Georgia are not met, it can lead to a successful will caveat.
Contesting a Will can be financially, physically, and emotionally draining. That is why a good estate planning attorney would help you ensure none of the heirs have to go through the probate estate process.
Is There a Deadline for Contesting a Will?
A valid, legal reason may be used to contest a person’s Georgia Will & Testament. However, you must act within the specified time period.
Under Georgia law, an interested party must file a petition to contest the will within four years from the date the will is admitted to probate in common form. Common form probate does not require notice to heirs, beneficiaries, or creditors. Individuals who are minors at the time the will is probated can object to the will when they turn 18 and will also have four years to contest it afterward.
In Georgia, heirs have ten days from the date they receive notice that the will has been filed for probate to file a caveat. The right to object will be lost if a caveat is not filed in a timely manner, with very few exceptions. Executors are better protected by the solemn form of probate than by the common form. In solemn form probate, all heirs must be notified and given a chance to object before probate can be granted.
Your right to contest the will can be lost if you fail to file your objection within the stipulated time.
How to File to Dispute a Will in Georgia?
In Georgia, you can contest a will by filing a will caveat. A caveat is a written statement of your objection to the will. The executor will first have to prove the will’s validity. Then, you can present evidence contesting the will.
Things You Can Do to Avoid Will Disputes in Georgia
You can avoid will disputes in Georgia in different ways. You might want to speak with your estate planning attorney to determine what will work best, but here are some things to consider.
Proper Will Execution
When executing your will, make sure that you follow all the requirements for a last will in Georgia.
Discussing with your family members while you are still lucid, and they can understand your reasoning, can eliminate any surprises when you are gone. You can also understand what they desire and make adjustments if you are comfortable.
Without a will, there would be nothing to dispute about. You can create a revocable living trust with beneficiaries in your estate plan. Your loved ones won’t have to go through the probate process with all its legal fees and publicity. They automatically get the assets once you are gone.
Beneficiaries Outside the Will
You can transfer certain assets to your heirs without a trust or will. A life insurance policy, bank account, or retirement account will be transferred to the named beneficiary without any administration. You can add a transfer on death deed to ensure they do not go through the probate court. Jointly owned assets like real estate with rights of survivorship will also automatically transfer to the surviving partner without probate.
Creating a Will or Trust Without Fear in Georgia
Georgia state law is unique when it comes to will execution and dispute. You might want to talk to an experienced attorney about your Georgia will and testament. The Law Office of Paul Black is willing to help you with any estate planning needs you might have at any time.
Call us to schedule a consultation today.