Make it your legal resolution to get your affairs in order, Part 1

By Lauren Deal
Deal Law Firm

The new year is upon us, and now is a good time to stop and take stock of our legal health. Consider if any of the following apply to you:

I. Wills and Estates:

First and foremost, do you have a will? If you don’t already have a will, you need one. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. Consider every piece of property that you own: your home, your vehicle, the money in your bank account…okay, okay, I know that it’s the month after Christmas and maybe your bank account isn’t anything to write home about, but you get the idea….if you die without a will, do you know who will get these things?

Lauren Deal, attorney-at-law
Lauren Deal is a former teacher and prosecutor who is now in private practice with the Deal Law Firm in Macon. Her areas of practice include Family Law and Criminal Defense.

Your next of kin will inherit your property if you die without having a will; generally, if you are married, your next of kin will be your spouse. If you are unmarried, your children, parents, or even your siblings may inherit your property if you do not have a will. Sometimes this can have unintended consequences.

Many years ago, my grandparents built a house. Literally. My father and uncles helped my grandfather build his home. After my grandparents passed away, one of my uncles purchased the house from his siblings, who co-owned the home under the terms of my grandparents’ wills. At the time, my uncle was still married to a woman he met later in life, from whom he had been separated for many years. When he passed away suddenly, without a will, this woman inherited my grandparents’ home. Despite the best efforts of family members who offered to buy the home to keep it in the family, she sold the home to someone else. If my uncle had had a will (or a divorce, but we’re getting to that one momentarily), the house would have remained in the family.

If you do have a will, you should read over it. Make sure that any newly born or adopted children and grandchildren are included, as well as other family members, friends, and institutions for whom you plan to make bequests (gifts through your will). Confirm that you are satisfied with your choice of executor and that the individual you’ve chosen is still capable and willing to perform the task. As you age, your friends and family will age, too, and you’ll want to review your will on a yearly basis to make certain that your appointed representatives are still viable choices.

Regardless of your age and personal health, you should also have a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. This form in Georgia designates someone to make important medical decisions for you if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. It also allows you to choose what types of life support and medical interventions you want in an emergency.

For healthy young or middle-aged adults, a power of attorney may not be necessary, depending on your personal and financial circumstances, although it’s worth considering if you frequently travel out of state for work, are a member of the armed forces subject to deployment, or if you travel to other countries frequently for long periods of time. I have numerous friends with family members who live in Europe, Canada, and China, and they all spend weeks and months at a time overseas to care for their family members, leaving a POA to manage their affairs here in their absence.

For more information about these issues, or for help keeping your legal resolutions, contact attorney Lauren Deal at Deal Law Firm, LLC, 901B. Washington Avenue, in Macon, Georgia. Call our office (478)254-9154, or email us at For more information about Deal Law Firm, check us out on Facebook or at