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What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will in Georgia?

Posted by Joel Beck | Dec 07, 2023 | 0 Comments


Losing a loved one is undoubtedly one of life's most challenging experiences, and the absence of a will can compound the difficulties. In Georgia, the lack of a choice triggers a specific set of legal procedures, impacting the distribution of assets and the overall settling of the deceased's affairs. Let's explore the implications of not having a will and how Peach State Wills & Trusts can guide you through this challenging process.

Intestate Succession in Georgia

When someone passes away without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” In Georgia, intestate succession laws determine how the deceased person's assets will be distributed among their heirs. Typically, the surviving spouse and children are the primary beneficiaries, with the specifics depending on the family structure. If there are no surviving spouses or children, the state's laws dictate the order of inheritance, which may include parents, siblings, or more distant relatives. Here's a breakdown to help you understand the basics:

  1. Confirmation of Intestacy: The process begins with confirming that the deceased person did not leave a valid will. This may involve thoroughly searching the decedent's personal effects, contacting their attorney, and checking with the probate court.

  2. Identifying Heirs: The family and/or the person seeking to become the administrator will work to identify the legal heirs of the deceased. This includes surviving spouses, children, parents, siblings, or more distant relatives based on the specific family structure.

  3. Appointment of Administrator: Without a will naming an executor, the probate court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of the estate. This individual, typically a close family member, is granted legal authority to manage the deceased person's affairs. Someone is appointed the administrator after filing for the issuance of Letters of Administration with the probate court. Legal heirs are entitled to notice of this filing and can consent in advance or file an objection after the petition if filed if they so desire.

  4. Notifying Creditors and Settling Debts: Creditors must be notified of the death, and the administrator is responsible for settling any outstanding debts or liabilities of the deceased using the assets of the estate.

  5. Inventorying and Appraising Assets: The administrator creates an inventory of the deceased person's assets, including real estate, bank accounts, personal belongings, and other valuable items. These assets may need to be appraised to determine their fair market value.

  6. Distribution According to Intestate Laws: Georgia's intestate succession laws dictate the order of inheritance. Assets are distributed among the legal heirs based on the specific hierarchy established by the state, which generally prioritizes surviving spouses and children.

  7. Resolving Disputes: Disputes among family members may arise during the intestate succession process. The administrator, with the assistance of legal counsel, if necessary, works to resolve conflicts and ensure distribution in accordance with the law.

  8. Probate Court Approval: The administrator presents the inventory of assets, proposed distribution plan, and any other required documentation to the probate court for approval as may be required. The court oversees the entire process to ensure it adheres to legal requirements.

  9. Final Distribution and Closing of the Estate: Once the probate court approves the distribution plan and any outstanding matters are resolved, the assets are distributed to the heirs. The estate is then considered closed, and the administrator's responsibilities end.

  10. Legal Assistance and Guidance: Legal assistance is invaluable throughout the process. Estate planning lawyers, such as those at Peach State Wills & Trusts, can provide guidance, ensure legal compliance, and address any complexities that may arise during intestate succession.

The Importance of Legal Assistance in Intestate Cases

Dealing with the complexities of intestacy, where someone has passed away without a will, can be a challenging experience both emotionally and legally. The absence of a will introduces uncertainties in the distribution of assets and the appointment of a personal representative (administrator), sometimes leading to disputes among family members. In such situations, seeking legal assistance becomes not just advisable but crucial to pass through the intricacies of intestate succession. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we recognize the emotional and legal challenges associated with intestate cases and are here to provide the necessary guidance.

Protecting Your Family's Future

The best way to avoid the complications of an intestate estate is to have a well-drafted will. Creating a will lets you specify how you want your assets distributed, name an executor, and address other important matters, such as guardianship for minor children. Taking this proactive step provides clarity for your loved ones and minimizes the risk of family disputes during an already challenging time. Or, to avoid the probate process all together, a revocable living trust can be created and assets funded into it while the person is alive. Assets in the revocable trust, which becomes irrevocable after the trust-maker dies, avoid the probate process and are held or distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the trust.


Contact Peach State Wills & Trusts Today

Planning for the future is a responsible and caring step, and Peach State Wills & Trusts is here to assist you every step of the way. Contact us at 678-344-5342 today to learn how to plan for the uncertainties of intestacy in Georgia. If you have any questions about estate planning in Georgia, download our free guide here, no strings attached. Secure your family's future with Peach State Wills & Trusts – your trusted partner in estate planning.

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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