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Who Inherits When You Die WITHOUT a Will in the State of Georgia?

As an estate planning attorney, I want to make sure clients are very clear on the consequences of not having a plan in place. Most people assume that things will work out and that their assets will automatically go to the people they would choose. But unfortunately, most people assume WRONG!

In the state of Georgia, if you die without a will, there are laws called “intestacy” laws that will determine who inherits your property. If you died without leaving written instructions through a Last Will and Testament, Georgia law will control who inherits the property you leave behind.

How does Georgia decide? Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1, Georgia courts would essentially look at your family tree to determine who inherits your property. Here’s a general overview of the relevant code section:

  • If you are married with no children, your spouse will inherit everything; however,

  • If you are married WITH children, your spouse AND children will inherit in equal shares.

  • OCGA § 53-2-1 specifies that the surviving spouse will not receive no less than 1/3 of the estate no matter how many children survive you.

  • CAUTION: It does not matter that you leave behind minor children. Under Georgia law, they would still inherit with your surviving spouse!

  • If you are single with children, your children would inherit in equal shares.

  • NOTE: If any of your children predecease you and they had children, their children would inherit your deceased child’s share.

  • If you are single with no children:

  • If your parents are alive, they will inherit your entire estate.

  • If your parents die before you, and you have siblings, your siblings would inherit in equal shares.

  • If you have no surviving siblings, we go to more remote family members like nieces, nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

  • If the State of Georgia decides you have no ascertainable heirs, your property would “escheat” or pass to the State of Georgia pursuant to OCGA § 53-2-8.

Is it possible that your property will pass to your loved ones without a Last Will & Testament? Yes. Is it possible that someone you would want to be included would be left out if you don’t formalize it through a Last Will & Testament? Absolutely. Is it also possible that while your loved ones may inherit your property, they will not inherit how and when you want them to if you don’t write it down? Definitely. As you can see, the risks are far too great not to take action to make sure your wishes are very clear in a legally valid and properly executed Last Will & Testament.

You owe it to your loved ones to write your wishes down so that we can hear YOUR voice instead of letting Georgia law decide what happens to your assets and your family. To learn more about intestacy laws, probate and what you can do to make life easier for your family when something happens to you, register for one our free workshops or call (404) 267-1377 to get started!

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