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Atlanta Probate Lawyer: S-Town as an Example of the Importance of Making a Will

As an Atlanta probate lawyer, I am very familiar with the consequences that can follow when a person dies intestate (i.e., without a will). The process of divvying up assets without a will to guide the process can become long, messy, and painful. A culturally relevant example of the unfortunate consequences of not preparing a will is the very popular podcast S-Town. S-Town follows the story of John B. McLemore, a resident of a small town in Alabama who owned acres upon acres of land, cared for his mother with dementia, and was rumored to have a large sum of money to his name in the form of gold bars.

Following the death of McLemore by suicide, and the realization that McLemore had no will, his assets (and what was to become of his mother) were up in the air. During his life, he had verbally promised gold, money, property, etc. to friends. But without a will, these promises were not legally binding. S-Town explores the difficulties experienced by both the distant family members and McLemore’s friends in probating the estate without a will to guide the court.

Although not every estate’s tale is quite so dramatic, it is important to have a will in order to avoid any hardship falling on a Decedent’s family and friends. When a person dies without a will, their assets will be divided up according to the laws of the state in which they reside. (Click here for a summary of Georgia’s intestate laws.) This always means that the assets are distributed to the family. However, in cases like McLemore’s, this family may be distant, out-of-touch, and not who was intended to receive the money. As McLemore had no siblings, children, or spouse, his mother became the beneficiary of his estate. However, she was deemed incompetent by the court due to her dementia, which led to the involvement of distant relatives of McLemore’s. These relatives, despite having not been an active part of McLemore’s life, became guardians of his mother and, consequently, in control of his estate.

It is important for people to understand that the only guaranteed way to ensure their wishes are heeded following their death is to have a proper will. If a will is done correctly, it can provide for the financial support of incompetent family members (like McLemore’s mother), allow assets to be given only to those they are intended for, and even have provisions that can harshly penalize anyone who contests the will. Given the importance of a will and the intricacies involved, a person seeking to make a will should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney can help a person draw up a will that gives them peace of mind in knowing that there is a plan for their assets following their death. If you would like to discuss wills and estate planning, please email me or call my Atlanta probate firm at (404) 445-7771.

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Atlanta, GA 30361

Phone: 404-445-7771
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