What happens if I die without a will in Georgia?
What happens if you die without a will in Georgia depends greatly on what types of property you own, what your family situation is, and other factors. First, it should be noted that wills only dispose of probate property. Probate property consists of assets that you own in your individual name, rather than jointly with another person, and assets that don’t have a beneficiary form, or assets in which the estate is listed on the beneficiary form. Some examples of property the will doesn’t dispose of include assets you own jointly with another person, life insurance proceeds and 401(k) or IRA proceeds that have a named beneficiary.
So if you don’t have minor children and you own everything jointly with your spouse, and you want your spouse to get everything when you pass, you may pass away without a will with no real negative consequences. However, if you and your spouse were to die in an accident together, or your spouse failed to do a will after you pass, then your heirs could run into a potential nightmare.
If you pass away without a will in Georgia, your probate property passes to a list of people listed under Georgia intestacy statutes. Typically, spouses and children inherit equally, with the spouse taking no less than a third of the probate property. If you don’t have a spouse or children, your parents would inherit, and if your parents aren’t alive, then your siblings would inherit. The law doesn’t take into account whether or not you have a relationship with those people.
Some other reasons for doing a will, besides listing who gets what property when you die, include naming a guardian for your children and setting up a trust for them. Naturally, you want to have a say in who will be raising your children if both of their parents were to pass away, and without a will the court will decide without your input. Also, you want your property to be protected for your children if they are young, and this can be accomplished easily through a testamentary trust.
Wills also can be beneficial because they allow you to choose who you want to serve as your Executor, who will wrap up your affairs once you’ve passed away. If you don’t name anyone, the court will decide, and who they pick isn’t necessarily who would do the best job. Your will can also excuse your Executor from posting a bond and filing an inventory or annual returns with the probate court.
I meet very, very few clients who don’t have a real need for a will. Virtually everyone has at least one reason for doing a will. If you would like to talk further about whether you need a will or not, call me, Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney at 678-453-6490 to learn more.