What happens if I don’t have a will?

| Aug 11, 2020 | Wills |

Like other states, Georgia law specifies what happens when a resident of this state dies without leaving a will or other estate planning documents.

Basically, if a person is married at the time of the death, then the spouse will receive the entire probate estate. If, however, they do have a descendant, that is, a child, grandchild, or the like, then the spouse will share equally with the children.

Surviving spouses and children have priority

What this means in practice is that, if a Duluth resident dies with, for example, 1 child and is married, then the child receives half the estate and the spouse receives the other half.

To carry the example further, if the child has died but left two children of her own, then the person’s spouse receives half the estate and the grandchildren each receive 25% of the estate.

There is an important exception to this rule, and that is a surviving spouse cannot receive less than one-third of the value of the estate.

So, if a person dies without a will and leaves behind his wife and three children, the widow will receive a little over 33% of the estate, with the children dividing the remainder equally.

More distant relatives can also inherit

The law also provides for situations where a deceased person leaves neither a spouse nor descendants behind. Depending on the circumstances, a deceased person’s parents, siblings, grandparents or other relatives could all inherit a portion of a person’s property.

The bottom line is, though, that without a valid will or other estate planning devices, state law will decide who inherits a person’s property. Someone who wants to be able to control to whom her wealth will go after her death will want to consider estate planning.