When someone dies without a will in the State of Georgia, that person’s “estate” will go through Georgia’s intestacy laws. Not many people understand what this means and what the laws are, but basically the State of Georgia has written a Will for you.
1. What Property Is Affected?
Only property that is in the deceased’s sole name will be handled under the intestacy laws. Certain items of property are considered out-of-probate, and these assets normally include those that are owned jointly with another person or involve some type of beneficiary designation.
Accounts that have a payable on death designation or property that is owned in joint tenancy, go to the surviving owner following the death of the other owner.
Retirement accounts, IRAs or life insurance proceeds, where a beneficiary is named, are also considered out-of-probate and will go directly to the beneficiary and not through the probate court.
2. How Does Intestate Succession Work?
The biggest issue when it comes to handling an estate through the intestacy laws involves who receives the deceased’s estate. Much of who receives the estate hinges upon whether the deceased died leaving a surviving spouse, children or parents.
• Married with children
If the deceased left a surviving spouse and children, the spouse and the descendants or children of the deceased will share the deceased’s property. However, the spouse’s share may not be less than one-third of the estate.
• Married with no children
If the deceased did not leave any children, the surviving spouse will receive all property in the estate.
• Not married with children
If the deceased was not married at the time of his or her death, but he or she did have children, all of the children will inherit the property.
• No spouse or children but surviving parents
In the event the deceased was not married and did not have any living descendants, but he or she did have surviving parents, the property goes to these surviving parents.
• No spouse, descendants or surviving parents
If the deceased died without leaving a spouse or surviving descendants or parents but did have siblings who were alive at the time of his or her death, the siblings will inherit all of the property.
3. How Is The Size Of The Spouse’s Share Determined?
The state’s intestacy laws are written to ensure that the surviving spouse is cared for in the event the deceased died leaving descendants, as well as the surviving spouse.
It is for this reason that the law makes it clear that, even if the deceased left a number of surviving descendants, the spouse’s share cannot be less than one-third of the total value of the assets in the estate. The remaining is then split equally among the children.
4. How Is The Size Of The Children’s Share Determined?
How much the deceased’s children will receive depends on how many children he or she had. The key is the children must be “legally” children of the deceased. This designation means any natural children, as well as adopted, but it does not include step-children.
If one of the children of the deceased did not survive him or her but did leave grandchildren of the deceased, that child’s share is divided equally among the children of the deceased child.
5. What About Half-Siblings?
If the deceased left any siblings or other relatives who are considered “half” a relative, meaning a sibling that shares the same father as the deceased but not the same mother, that sibling would receive inheritance as if he or she were fully a relative.
6. Will The State Receive The Property?
What happens in those situations where some individual dies without a will but does not have any family? These situations are extremely rare, but they do occur.
Just because someone dies not having any immediate family available does not meant the property all goes to the state. The laws are created with the purpose of ensuring that anyone who is related to the deceased, instead of the state, receives the property.
This list includes cousins, aunts, uncles, and others. If absolutely no relative is available, then, and only then, will the state receive the property.
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Please contact our office if you or someone you know has questions about their estate plan. Call us at 770-933-9009 to schedule a consultation with a Greater Atlanta area estate planning and probate lawyer today.