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The Consequences of Not Filing a Will in Georgia

Posted by Joel Beck | Aug 08, 2023 | 0 Comments

In the Peach State, having a will isn't just a good idea—it's essential. A will is often the blueprint of your wishes about the distribution of your assets after your demise. It's a legal document that allows you to express your preferences about who should inherit your estate and manage it. But what if a will isn't filed in Georgia after you die? That's a question we get asked often, and the answer is more complex than you might think.

What Happens When a Will is Not Filed?

After your death, if your Will cannot be located and is not filed in Georgia, your estate may not be distributed according to your wishes. Instead, the distribution of your assets will be determined by Georgia's intestate laws, not your personal preferences as set forth in your Will. Under these laws, your closest relatives are typically first in line to inherit. In rare cases where no legal heirs can be found, your estate may escheat to the Board of Education in the county in which you lived, for their general education fund.

However, it's crucial to understand that intestate succession only applies to assets that would have passed through your will. These generally include solely-owned property or assets shared without a provision for automatic succession, such as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.

The Potential Consequences

Without a will, there may be a  greater chance for disagreements among your heirs about the proper person to administer your estate, and there may be disputes about the distribution of your assets, both of which could lead to broken family relationships and even costly legal battles. Additionally, without a will, you don't have a say in who will take guardianship of your minor children—another decision left up to the courts.

How Can You Help Ensure Your Will is Known and Filed

Once you've created your will, it's a smart idea to make sure that the document itself is protected, and the right people know where it is and have the ability to access it.  That way, the will can be filed with the probate court after your death.

Another option is to store the will with your local Georgia probate court (there is a probate court in each of Georgia's 159 counties).  You can pay a small fee and store the will for safekeeping with the court.  Then, once you've deceased, your family can alert the probate court and it can be filed for probate along with a petition to appoint the executor you've nominated in the will. Storing the will with the probate court may reduce the risk that your will would be lost or destroyed, especially be someone who may stand to inherit more if your estate was administered as if you had no will, and ensure your wishes are known and followed.

Taking Steps Toward Estate Planning

Avoiding these potential consequences starts with creating a will, and then taking steps so it is known and can be located when needed, and then can be filed with the probate court. But remember, estate planning doesn't stop at a will. It involves other important documents like a Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Healthcare. These important documents let you designate persons you trust to manage your healthcare and your financial affairs if you can't do so for yourself. 

Estate planning can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. We're here to guide you through each step of the process, ensuring your assets—and your loved ones—are protected.

Need Help? Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts

There's good news: It's never too late to start estate planning. And, it's likely easier than you think.

Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan for the future in Georgia today. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, you can download our free guide here, no strings attached. Together, we can ensure your final wishes are honored and your loved ones are cared for.

About the Author

Joel Beck

Joel Beck founded The Beck Law Firm, LLC in 2007. His firm focused on business law and estate planning needs of clients, two areas that he was drawn to based upon personal and business experiences in his life, including a ten-year career at NASD (now known as FINRA).


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At Peach State Wills and Trusts, a division of The Beck Law Firm, LLC, we're committed to answering your questions about wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, uncontested probate, and business planning issues in Georgia.

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