When a loved one passes without a valid will, the decedent is considered to have died “intestate.” Issues arise with Georgia intestate estates regarding how the deceased’s property, real estate, accounts and other assets are to be distributed. Georgia law provides for intestate distribution of assets to family members based ostensibly on the “closeness” of the kinship or marital relationship. Contrary to popular belief, an estate does not pass to the government if someone dies without a will. However, if no legally recognized heirs of an intestate decedent can be found, it is possible that an estate could “escheat” to the state. Therefore, it is always important to have a valid will because one may not want their property to pass to an estranged family member or the government, but rather a friend or a charitable organization.Intestate Distribution With Surviving Spouse and Descendants
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(1), if the deceased is survived by only a spouse, the spouse inherits the entire estate of the deceased. If the deceased is survived by a spouse and children, the spouse shares equally with the children; however, at no time will the spouse be entitled to less than a one-third share. For example, if there is a surviving spouse and two surviving children, each will take one-third share of the estate. If there is a surviving spouse and three children, the surviving spouse shall take one-third share of the estate and the three surviving children will share the remaining two-thirds of the estate. If there is a surviving spouse and one surviving child, both will equally share one-half of the estate.Intestate Distribution With Only Surviving Descendants
If there is no surviving spouse of an intestate decedent, the surviving descendants will share the estate, less advancements made (an advancement is an advance on the inheritance the decedent made prior to his or her death with the understanding it would reduce the amount of the child’s inheritance upon the decedent’s death). See O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(3). If the decedent is pre-deceased by a child, and that child had children of his or her own (therefore grandchildren of the decedent), the share that would have gone to the child passes to the grandchild(ren) equally. For example, Assume Bob has two sons, Tom and John. Tom and John both have three children each, Bob’s six grandchildren. Tom dies before Bob and then Bob dies, survived by John and his six grandchildren. If Tom survived Bob, Tom and John would take equal shares of Bob’s estate. However, since Tom passed before Bob, Tom’s three children will share one-half of Bob’s estate, and John will take the other one-half.Intestate Distribution Without Surviving Spouse or Descendants
If there is no surviving spouse or descendants of an intestate decedent, the surviving parents of the decedent will receive equal shares of the estate. See O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(4). If there is not a surviving spouse, child or parent, then brothers or sisters of the decedent will receive equal shares. If brothers or sisters predecease the decedent but are survived by children of their own, these children will share equally that brother’s (or sister’s) share. If there are no surviving parents or siblings but there are nieces or nephews, the nieces and nephews will share in the estate per capita. See O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(5).
If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling or a niece or nephew, then the grandparents of the deceased share the estate equally. O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(6).
If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, child, parent,sibling, niece or nephew or a grandparent, then an uncle or aunt would share the estate equally, with their surviving children (the deceased’s cousins) inheriting the uncle’s or aunt’s share. O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(7).
If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a brother or sister, a niece or nephew, a grandparent, or an uncle or aunt, then the deceased’s first cousins inherit the estate. O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(7).
If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a brother or sister, a niece or nephew, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, or any first cousins, the estate passes to the deceased’s next relative. O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)(8).
If the deceased is not survived by any living relatives and therefore has no heirs, his or her estate goes to the state and in Georgia, this goes to the education fund in the county where the deceased was living at the time of his or her death. O.C.G.A. § 53-2-51.