If a Georgia resident dies without having a will or other estate plan, then her property will pass to her closest relatives according to Georgia law.
Like other states, Georgia’s laws favor a person’s spouse and children as heirs of property. If a person dies married but childless, his spouse will inherit the entire probate estate.
If a person dies with both a spouse and children, then the division is more complicated. The spouse is guaranteed at least one-third of the probate estate. However, he must otherwise share the property equally with all surviving children.
So, as an example, if a person dies leaving a spouse and one child, then the spouse gets 50% and the child gets 50%. The spouse will otherwise get approximately 33% of the estate.
If a person dies unmarried but with children, then the children split the estate equally.
In all cases, if any of a person’s children has died, then any grandchildren would split the share of the estate that would have gone to the deceased child.
The law also covers situations in which a person has neither a spouse nor children, but those situations can get legally complicated very quickly.
Intestate succession is often not ideal
The biggest problem with dying without an estate plan may well be that the person then has no control over how her property will be divided.
However, even if she in theory is fine with how Georgia law would divvy up her property, the administration of an estate without a will can be very difficult and time consuming.
There is often a lot of confusion surrounding such estates. For instance, at the outset, a court will have to decide who will act as executor of the estate.
Families in Northern Georgia facing probate without a will or other difficult estate administration issues should consider speaking to an experienced attorney.