Generally, you need a Will if you want to have input into who raises your kids.
Legally, children are a complex issue. Georgia probate law divides responsibility for minors into two areas: their property (real estate, money, and other stuff) and everything else (where they live, where they go to school, healthcare decisions, etc.).*
Authority for these two things is divided into two jobs. A “Conservator” has authority of the child’s property, and a “Guardian” has authority over everything else. The same person can be both the Guardian and Conservator, but that is not always the case.
Guardianship is relatively easy. If one of the child’s parents is alive, then that parent is (usually) automatically the Guardian. But if neither parent is available, then the Court will need to appoint a Guardian.
And nobody (usually) is automatically a child’s Conservator, including a parent. Therefore, if a child receives a significant amount of property (such as through inheritance), the Court will appoint a Conservator.
What does this have to do with Wills? A lot, actually.
By default, Georgia law has a priority list of who the Court might appoint as a Guardian or Conservator.
However, a parent can nominate a specific person to be Guardian or Conservator (or both) in a Will, and the Court will (usually) try to honor the parent’s nomination.** And if a parent’s Will nominates a Guardian or Conservator, then the Court usually not require a hearing or bond for someone nominated as Guardian or Conservator in a Will.
Therefore, if you want to have input into who helps raise your children, you should consider getting a Will.
*This is not the same as custody issues in divorce, which is an entirely separate area of law.
**Of course, there are exceptions, such as if the nominee is unwilling or unfit to do the job.
Photo by Valentina Locatelli on Unsplash.
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The statements in this blog are generalities, and exceptions exist. And, as always, this post is not legal advice. If you have any questions about this information or about what to do when a loved one passes, please contact us.