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Inheritance‌ ‌Laws‌ ‌in‌ ‌Georgia‌ ‌

Aug. 4, 2021

Passing Away With a Will

Georgia considers residents who die with a valid will prepared “testate.” That means a will was prepared and signed by the decedent and two witnesses. A properly signed will typically will be viewed by a court as the exact wishes of the decedent and use it as the guiding document for the decedent’s estate and successor heirs. In the event that there’s no heir named for certain property in the estate, it will fall under intestate succession laws.

Valid wills name an executor to manage the disbursement of the estate’s property to heirs. A judge will need to approve the executor, but once this is done, they become responsible for handling everything related to the estate, including its debts and liabilities. Executors also handle the will’s submission to probate court.

Passing Away Without a Will

The term “intestate” refers to when an individual passes away without a valid will. However, just because the decedent hasn’t specified where his or her property should end up, doesn’t mean it will go uninherited. So to manage the inheritance of intestate decedents, Georgia has created intestate succession laws. These are meant to look for any possible relative who could inherit your estate.

Although the court will dictate how your intestate estate is distributed, it doesn’t actually do the management of the estate. An administrator must be appointed; someone who is mentally competent and if possible, someone close to or part of the family. This can be avoided by having a will drafted for you.

Spouses in Georgia Inheritance Law

Most states will afford the surviving spouse all of the decedent’s estate whether they have their own kids together or not. For marriages without children, this rule holds true, but if children are included things change drastically. In this case, the decedent’s estate is split evenly between the surviving spouse and all of their children. It’s important to note, though, that a surviving spouse is entitled to a minimum of one-third of the estate, regardless of how that affects the even split.

Disinheriting a Spouse in Your Will

If a decedent disinherits a spouse, this means that the decedent has essentially deleted them from the will. While many states won’t allow this to happen completely, Georgia is much more open to the possibility. Disinherited spouses are only permitted to receive a monetary allowance for the year that follows the individual’s death. After that, the estate is not obligated to assist the surviving spouse financially whatsoever.

Children in Georgia Inheritance Law

There’s only one situation in Georgia inheritance law when children will receive the complete estate of their parents: when there is an absence of a surviving spouse. In scenarios where there is a surviving spouse, the children are given up to two-thirds of the decedent’s estate, even if the surviving spouse is also their parent, according to Georgia inheritance laws.

Intestate Succession: Spouses & Children

Inheritance Situation

Who Inherits Your Property

– If spouse and no children

– Entire estate to spouse

– If spouse and children

– Estate split evenly between spouse and children
– Spouse is entitled to at least 33% of estate

– If children and no spouse

– Entire estate to children

For all intents and purposes, adopted children are the same as biological children under George law. Because they have been legally claimed by their adoptive parents, full inheritance rights ensue. But if you gave away your own children for adoption, they will not be considered part of the heirs of your estate.

Should you have a child illegitimately, some factors must be satisfied for that person to become a full intestate heir. Firstly, a court must decide paternity. You must have had to recognize your paternity in writing and have signed the birth certificate. There must also be clear physical evidence of your paternity. But if you’d like this person to be included in your will, just write him or her in.

Unmarried Individuals Without Children

People who pass away without surviving children, a surviving spouse or a will have the most complicated intestate succession situation you’ll come across in Georgia. While eventually the state could claim your property as its own, it’ll exhaust every possible heir option it can to attempt to ensure that doesn’t happen. So if you fall into this category, this is how the state will distribute your assets to eligible heirs:

Intestate Succession: Extended Family

Inheritance Situation

Who Inherits Your Property

– If no spouse and children

– Estate split evenly between grandchildren of deceased children

– If no grandchildren

– Entire estate to parents

– If no parents

– Estate split evenly between siblings

– If no siblings

– Estate split evenly between nieces and nephews

– If no nieces and nephews

– Estate split evenly between grandnieces and grandnephews

– If no grandnieces and grandnephews

– Entire estate to paternal/maternal grandparents

– If no grandparents

– Estate split evenly between grandchildren of deceased children

– If no aunts and uncles

– Estate split evenly between paternal/maternal cousins

In a situation where the state cannot find any heirs, your estate’s property will likely pass on to the state.

Non-Probate Inheritance

When a decedent dies, certain types of property will not be eligible for inclusion in probate or any related processes. Typically these are financial accounts, and include the following:

  • Property in a living trust

  • Life insurance payouts

  • IRAs, 401Ks, and other retirement accounts

  • Transfer and payable-on-death accounts

  • Jointly owned property

These exceptions were not randomly chosen. Because they all require the naming of a beneficiary when receiving them, their inheritance has already been worked out. Those that would like these accounts to become a part of their estate upon their death can do so by making their estate the beneficiary.