Dying Without a Will in Georgia

Understanding the Laws of Intestacy Succession in Georgia

Tombstones and gravesite at Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia
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Your relative may have passed away without having a last will and testament. When this happens, the intestacy succession laws found in the Georgia Probate Code will dictate who inherits the assets in the probate estate. Whether the deceased person left a surviving spouse is a determining factor, but surviving children, parents, or other relatives can also impact your inheritance. Below is a summary of the Georgia intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Person Is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants

Spousal inheritance rights in Georgia depend on whether the deceased person is also survived by descendants, such as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or others. Here is what will happen under the Georgia intestacy laws if there is a surviving spouse.

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants: In this case, the surviving spouse and the children will share equally in the probate estate, however, the surviving spouse's share may not be less than one-third of the property in the estate. In this situation, if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and one child, each will inherit one-half of the probate estate. However, the spouse will receive one-third of the probate estate if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and four children, and the children will equally divide the remaining two-thirds between themselves.
  • Survived by a spouse and no descendants: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit the deceased spouse's entire probate estate.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse: When there is no surviving spouse, the deceased person's descendants will inherit the entire probate estate according to per stirpes.

Deceased Person Is Not Survived by a Spouse or Descendants

Here is what will happen under the Georgia intestacy laws if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or any other descendants.

  • Survived by one or both parents: The parents of the deceased person will equally inherit the probate estate if both are living. If one of the parents is deceased, the entire probate estate is given to the sole surviving parent.
  • Survived by brothers and/or sisters or descendants of brothers and/or sister and no parents: The deceased person's brothers and/or sisters and the descendants of deceased brothers and/or sisters will inherit the probate estate. If any brothers and/or sisters are predeceased, their share is distributed to their children, the nieces, and nephews of the decedent, per stirpes.
  • Not survived by parents, brothers, sisters, or descendants of brothers or sisters: Grandparents are next in line to inherit the deceased's property if there are no other close relatives. Otherwise, the belongings will go to aunts and uncles or their descendants, if any, or to first cousins.
  • Not survived by any family members: In the unlikely circumstance that the deceased person is not survived by any family members as described above, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the State of Georgia.

What You Can Inherit From a Georgia Intestate Estate

Knowing what you might inherit if your relative dies without leaving a last will and testament and the relative was a resident of Georgia or owned real estate located in Georgia isn't always easy. Even if you determine based on the information presented above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may very well not inherit anything. Why? If your relative left all non-probate property or had a living trust, the estate made void the probate process in Georgia. You also might not get anything if the debts your relative owed at the time of death exceeded the value of the probate estate, which makes the estate insolvent.

If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in Georgia, contact a probate attorney who specializes in Georgia probate law to find out.

The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.