February 12, 2009- Georgia Day
Have you written a will? Recently a fraternity brother died, age 63, and no will has yet been found. No one can verify that they ever saw a will, although one man thought he had been designated executor, but he has no legal role unless a will is found.
Have you ever wondered about your ancestors and why you can't find a will for them? Maybe they never got around to it either. Some wills burned up in courthouse fires, so we don't know what our ancestors might have said.
Some wills are quite convoluted, like the one written by my ancestor George Brewer in Putnam Co., Ga, in 1810, in which he names various children that he "assigns" to his several daughters. Were they the daughters' children? or the children of a deceased daughter? It pays to always make a full copy of a will to read and put in your files, DON'T RELY on the ABSTRACT. We found a will in Augusta where the abstracted copy left out an entire child.
One friend who died in the 1990s left each of his friends--many of whom were his frequent dinner companions-- a percentage of his estate, making it a very unusual probate.
Everyone today needs to write a will and let someone know where it is. You can always update it later. If you have family items, make a list of who should get them. If you have genealogy or other research papers, or any collectibles, make sure you designate someone who cares about your stuff to be in charge. Don't rely on your next of kin to necessarily know what to do- if you think they will, go to the nearest flea market and see the stuff on sale there, stuff that a family member decided to trash.
Don't delay, as your ancestors probably did in their day, or just never got around to it, much to our dismay as genealogists.
REFERENCES: An upcoming article in the Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly will cover Georgia's Probate laws from the old Court of Ordinary, now the Probate Court. An early Probate/Ordinary Court's Clerk's Guide from 1829 is posted on the society's website in the Members' Section. See www.gagensociety.org for info on the society and the members' area.