What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Georgia?

When you die without a will in Georgia, the state considers it an intestate death. Specific laws govern the estate. Your loved ones have no say in how the court determines everybody’s shares. The intestacy laws follow a mandatory process during probate to distribute your property and assets to eligible people.

Which Assets Are Not Affected by Intestate Succession Laws?

During probate, intestate succession law identifies and distributes all assets that a will would have covered. It usually covers all property under your sole name. Intestate succession typically does not impact assets that would not have gone through your will.

Intestate succession laws do not affect:

  • Jointly owned property
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401(k)
  • Living trust property
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account

During probate, those assets pass directly to the surviving joint owner or the beneficiary you named.

What Happens If I Had Debt?

If you died with debts, the court must pay your creditors from your estate during the probate process. Your relatives can then receive what is left of your property and assets afterward as their inheritance.

What Is the Intestate Succession Order in Georgia?

  • Your children receive everything if you have no spouse
  • Your spouse receives everything if you have no children
  • If you have a spouse and children, they equally share your property
  • Your parents receive everything if you have no spouse or descendants
  • Your siblings receive everything if you have no spouse, descendants, or parents

If this first line of succession does not exist, the law transmits your estate to nieces and nephews, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins, depending on who is alive.

If the court cannot find any living relative, your estate goes to the state under escheat laws.

Who Will Take Care of My Minor Child?

Your child’s surviving parent becomes the legal guardian regardless of your marital status at the time of your death.

If both parents are deceased, the court determines the child’s legal guardian in this order of preference:

  • The adult your child would prefer to become the legal guardian if they are at least 14 years old
  • The nearest adult relative
  • Other adult relatives
  • Other adult relatives related to your child by marriage
  • An adult you designated in writing to become your child’s natural guardian
  • An adult who has provided support for your child or with whom your child has lived

Hoes Does the State Calculate the Spouse’s Share?

In Georgia, the share your surviving spouse receives depends on whether you had children and how many. If you had no children, your spouse receives all your estate. If you had children, they receive at least one-third of your estate and the rest goes to your children.

What Are Children Entitled to Under Georgia Intestate Laws?

Georgia calculates each child’s “intestate share” according to whether you were married and how many children you had. The state requires that any child receiving a share of your estate was legally your child. This can be a complex matter due to families with children issued from various unions or that used medically assisted reproductive methods.

Legally adopted children have the same right as your biological children per. If you had any foster or stepchildren, they do not automatically get an intestate share and their situation depends on the line of succession.

Any child you put up for adoption and that another family legally adopted, will receive no share from your estate.

If you conceived a child and they are born within ten months after your death, they receive a share. If a child conceived by artificial insemination and presumed legitimate can receive a share if both spouses agreed to this conception method in writing.

Any children born outside of marriage can receive a share if they meet one of the following requirements:

  • A judge establishes your paternity
  • You acknowledged they are your children in writing
  • You signed their birth certificates
  • The children can provide other clear and reasonable evidence of your paternity

Create Your Will Today with Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C.

Drafting a will and other estate planning documents can make a positive difference for you and your loved ones. It gives you peace of mind because you know who your property will go to, whether relatives, friends, or charities. A will also allows you to designate a legal guardian for any minor children you may have. Estate planning is also a convenient way to put in writing specific medical preferences for any end-of-life care.

Taking this step can alleviate your loved ones’ stress as they grieve your death. At Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C., we bring our detailed and current understanding of succession laws to tailor a will and other legal solutions to your needs and goals. We make sure to create, review, amend, or revoke any estate planning documents as you see fit while complying with the law.

Contact Busch, Reed, Jones & Leeper, P.C. today at (770) 629-0154 to schedule a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys to create your will in Marietta, GA!