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Understanding the Consequences of Dying Without a Will in Georgia

Posted by Joel Beck | Feb 21, 2024 | 0 Comments

Dying without a will, also known as dying intestate, can lead to significant challenges for your loved ones and your estate. In Georgia, the absence of a will means the state determines the distribution of your assets, potentially causing unintended consequences, including possibly unintended recipients of your assets. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we understand the importance of addressing this concern proactively to ensure your wishes are respected.

Intestate Succession and Asset Distribution in Georgia

Intestate succession is the legal process that governs how a deceased person's assets are distributed when they die without a valid will. In Georgia, as in other states, intestate succession laws are designed to distribute the decedent's assets among their closest relatives fairly, as determined by the state. Here's a detailed explanation of how this process works in Georgia:

  1. Priority of Heirs

  • Spouse and Children: If the deceased was married, the spouse usually receives a significant portion of the estate. If there are children, the estate is divided equally between the spouse and the children, with the spouse receiving no less than a third.  Many people assume that everything goes to the surviving spouse, but that's not the case in Georgia.

  • No Spouse or Children: If there's no spouse or children, the estate goes to the deceased's parents. If the parents are dead, it is divided among siblings.

  • Extended Family: In the absence of a spouse, children, parents, or siblings, the estate is distributed to more distant relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, etc.

  1. Types of Assets Covered

  • Probate Assets: Intestate succession laws apply only to assets that would have passed through a will. These probate assets typically include personal property, real estate, and bank accounts solely in the decedent's name.

  • Non-Probate Assets: Certain assets are not subject to intestate succession. These include life insurance payouts, retirement accounts, and properties held in joint tenancy or with designated beneficiaries.

  1. Role of the Probate Court: The probate court oversees the intestate succession process. They appoint an administrator (like an executor in a will) to manage the estate's distribution.

  2. Potential Complications:  If minor children are heirs, the court may require a conservatorship or trust to manage their inheritance until they reach legal age. Sometimes, potential heirs might not be immediately known or located, which can complicate and delay the distribution process. Without a will to guide the distribution, disputes among heirs about who gets what can arise, sometimes leading to legal battles.

  3. Importance of a Will: Having a will can significantly simplify the distribution of assets and ensure that your wishes are known and followed after your death. It may minimize the likelihood of disputes among heirs and gives you control over your estate's distribution.

  4. Legal Assistance: Instate succession can be complex, especially for larger estates or if there are disputes among potential heirs. Seeking legal advice from an attorney experienced in estate planning and probate law is advisable to ensure compliance with Georgia's laws and protect all parties' rights.


The Impact on Minor Children and Guardianship

For parents of minor children, dying without a will raises another critical issue—guardianship. A will allows you to nominate a guardian for your children, ensuring they are cared for by someone you trust. Without this provision, the court must decide who will take on this responsibility, leading to potential family disputes and uncertainty about your children's future.


The Legal Landscape of Intestate Succession

Understanding the legal landscape surrounding intestate succession in Georgia is crucial. The laws governing intestacy can be complex and may not align with your wishes for asset distribution. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, such as those at Peach State Wills & Trusts, can help you overcome this intricate terrain and ensure your estate is handled according to your preferences.


Why Having a Will Matters in Georgia

A will is a foundational document that empowers you to dictate the fate of your assets and provide clear instructions for your loved ones. Understanding its significance in Georgia is essential for ensuring your estate is handled according to your wishes.

A will serves as a roadmap for your loved ones, guiding them through settling your estate. It specifies who should receive your assets, assigns responsibilities to an executor, and addresses any special considerations, such as the care of pets or the distribution of sentimental items. Creating a will empowers your loved ones with clarity during a challenging time.


The Importance of Professional Guidance in Estate Planning

While Georgia law doesn't mandate the involvement of an attorney in will preparation, seeking professional guidance can make a significant difference. Your estate planning is a critical legal need directly impacting your and your family's future, possible for generations to come.  


Consulting with Peach State Wills & Trusts

We understand the importance of comprehensive estate planning and are here to help you every step of the way. Whether you need assistance creating a new will or reviewing an existing one, our Peach State Wills & Trusts team is dedicated to providing personalized and professional service. 

Contact us at 678-344-5342 or online to learn how to plan for the future in Georgia today. For additional information on estate planning in Georgia, download our free guide.

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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