Georgia Intestacy Laws: Understanding Heirship Without a Will


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Georgia Intestacy Laws and Protecting Your Interests

Understand Georgia Intestacy Laws with Perigon Legal Services. Learn how your estate is handled without a will and how we can help secure your legacy.

Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Perigon Legal Services, LLC

Mr. Faulkner is an experienced counselor and litigator with 15 years of experience, having held bar licenses in four states (Mo, Il, Ct and Ga). Stan Faulkner uses this experience and focuses his skills in the pursuit of assisting individuals in probate (trust and estate) matters, guardianships and conservatorships, estate planning, business disputes and contract disputes. Published on May 17, 2024.

What if, one day, you were no longer here and you hadn’t prepared a will? How would your assets be distributed among your loved ones? When a person passes away without a will in Georgia, the intestate succession laws step in as an invisible blueprint, outlining who has the right to inherit your estate. These laws serve as the default plan for distribution, often leading to outcomes that might not align with one’s wishes.

Understanding Georgia intestacy laws is significant for anyone interested in estate planning. It delineates a hierarchy of heirs, starting with your spouse and children, and in their absence, funnels down to more distant relatives. Navigating these complexities can be daunting; however, knowing these laws can ensure that your estate is distributed according to state guidelines, albeit not necessarily your personal preferences.

We at Perigon Legal Services believe that familiarizing yourself with intestacy laws is not only about preparing for the inevitable but about making informed choices to safeguard your beneficiaries’ future. Our knowledge of estate planning empowers us to assist you in making sense of these statutes and in crafting a plan that aligns with your personal and familial goals.

Understanding Georgia Intestacy Laws

In the absence of a will, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) outlines a person’s inheritance roadmap. Under these laws, priority is given to the closest relatives, beginning with the spouse and children. Children’s rights are equally compelling. Biological, legitimately adopted children and even acknowledged stepchildren are entitled to a stake in the parental estate.

In a fascinating twist of fate, the heritage may cascade to the extended family, encapsulating parents and siblings and further down the bloodline to nieces and nephews. Where no identifiable heirs exist, ownership is claimed by an unexpected beneficiary—the State of Georgia. Such a phenomenon is termed escheat, and it serves as a reminder of the power of intestacy laws in our society.

To navigate these statutory waters efficiently, understanding the Georgia probate process is fundamental. It ensures the rightful heirs receive their due inheritance, sometimes facilitated by a deed of assent, the document transferring property ownership.

    Special Considerations in Georgia Intestacy Laws

    Georgia’s intestacy laws have unique provisions that could lead to unexpected outcomes for those who pass away without a will. Let’s unpack some of the special considerations that you should be aware of when it comes to intestacy.

    Spousal Share and Children’s Share

    According to Georgia’s intestate succession laws, if the decedent is married but has no children, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse. However, when children are involved, the distribution becomes more nuanced. The surviving spouse will receive no less than a third of the estate, with the remainder divided equally among the children. It’s crucial to understand how these shares are calculated to ensure that loved ones are provided for as expected. 

    Unmarried Partners and Intestacy

    Georgia law does not recognize the rights of unmarried partners to inherit under intestacy. This often stark reality underscores the importance of estate planning, especially for cohabiting partners who wish to protect each other’s interests upon one’s passing.

    Guardianship and Minor Children

    When a decedent leaves behind minor children and has no indication of a chosen guardian, Georgia’s probate court steps in to appoint one. This judicial decision will take into account the best interests of the children, which may not always align with what the parents might have preferred. Establishing a will is the most effective way to have a say in who should care for minor children if the worst were to happen.

    Understanding these points is critical, and we at Perigon Legal Services strive to navigate the complexities with our clients, providing clarification on how the laws in Georgia may impact their estate and loved ones.

    How Perigon Legal Services Can Help

    Estate planning is a thoughtful process, one we treat with the utmost respect and diligence. When a person passes away without a will in Georgia, navigating the intestacy laws becomes crucial. Our team at Perigon Legal Services practices estate administration and intestacy proceedings.

    Estate Planning Services

    Our comprehensive estate planning services are designed to provide peace of mind. We know each family’s needs are unique—that’s why our attorneys offer personalized advice, ensuring your estate plan aligns with your wishes and legal requirements.

    Navigating Intestacy

    Should you find yourself dealing with an intestate estate, we can guide you through the process. Our experience in handling intestate succession ensures that the decedent’s assets are distributed in accordance with Georgia law, with sensitivity to the family’s needs.

    Creating a Will

    Most importantly, preparing for the future by creating your last will and testament in Georgia is an invaluable step in estate planning. We help our clients understand the importance of a will and provide straightforward assistance in drafting documents that stand firm in the face of legal scrutiny.

    Case Studies: Intestacy in Action

    Our portfolio of case studies illustrates our hands-on approach to intestacy cases. For instance, in the case of Jordan and Betty, Jordan is a physician, and his wife, Betty, is an elementary school teacher. They have no living children. However, Jordan has very good earnings and investments worth over a million dollars.

    Unfortunately, two weeks before his 32nd birthday, Jordan suffers a stroke and dies instantly, leaving no will behind. He is not on good terms with his siblings due to issues with his parent’s estate property. Betty contacts us to help wind up Jordan’s estate. In such situations, we can help get Beth appointed as Jordan’s executor.

    As Jordan’s only surviving spouse, she is also entitled to his entire estate. The case would be different if she had not married Jordan. The estate will most likely go to his surviving siblings.

    Contact Perigon Legal Services for Your Estate Planning Needs

    Have you considered the future of your estate? The distribution of one’s assets can seem a simple matter, yet the intricacies of law make it complex. At Perigon Legal Services, we provide comprehensive estate planning services to ensure your legacy is preserved in accordance with your wishes. 

    Estate planning is essential; without it, state laws determine the fate of your assets. In Georgia, intestacy laws could disperse your estate in ways that may not align with your desires. It’s a complex landscape that could leave your loved ones in unforeseen predicaments.

    Our Approach:

    • In-depth analysis of your estate
    • Customized estate plans that echo your specific intentions
    • Seamless estate administration support

    We consider all elements from real estate to personal items. It’s not just about drafting a will; it’s about creating a robust legal framework that encompasses trusts, advance directives, and powers of attorney. Why risk ambiguity when you can have clarity? Perigon Legal Services stands ready to navigate the multifaceted realm of estate planning with you.

    Contact us for guidance on Georgia inheritance laws and estate administration. Planning is paramount, and the peace of mind it brings is invaluable.

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