If you die without a will in Georgia, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Georgia.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:
If you die with:
here's what happens:
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse but no descendants||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and descendants||spouse and descendants equally share the intestate property, but the spouse's share may not be less than 1/3|
|parents but no spouse or descendants||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
In Georgia, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property equally, except that your spouse's share cannot be less than 1/3.
Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have three grown children. Bill and Karen own a house in joint tenancy, and Karen is also the named beneficiary of Bill's retirement account. When Bill dies, Karen automatically inherits the house and any remaining retirement funds; those things are not intestate property. Bill also owns $300,000 worth of other property that would have passed under a will, so Karen inherits 1/3 -- that is, $100,000 worth -- of that property . The three children split the remaining $200,000 worth of Bill's intestate property.
If you die without a will in Georgia, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, Georgia must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.
If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or cousins.
Here are a few other things to know about Georgia's intestacy laws.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's No Will.
You can find Georgia's intestate succession laws in Sections 53-2-1 to 53-2-8 of the Georgia Code. If you want to read the law, you can search the Georgia Code from the website of the Georgia General Assembly.
For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.
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