Deceased Without a Will in Georgia

By Tom Streissguth

Georgia residents who die without a will must have their estates pass through through the court system before heirs can take possession of their lawful property. If you die intestate in Georgia, state law will govern the distribution of assets and the payment of debts. The process can be complicated, and court costs and the fees of administrators and attorneys can be charged to the estate.


In Georgia, a probate court has the task of deciding how an estate may distribute its assets, whether or not there is a will. People named in a will as entitled to a share of the estate are known as beneficiaries; if there is no will, people entitled to inherit from the estate are known as heirs. The court will assign an estate administrator, who may be a surviving spouse or sole heir, to handle the assets and liabilities of the estate, subtract any costs and fees, and oversee the final distribution to the beneficiaries.


When there is no will, Georgia law provides for permanent or temporary administration. In permanent administration, all heirs are notified and the administrator draws up an inventory of the estate prior to overseeing payment of debts and disbursement of assets. In temporary administration, the administrator collects and inventories the estate, and a court order is then required for the disbursement. No administration is necessary if the estate is clear of debts and claims by creditors, and if all the heirs have agreed on the division of remaining assets. The heirs must sign an agreement that sets out this division in detail.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


Some assets pass directly to beneficiaries/heirs without probate, whether or not there is a will. If the decedent owned an account designated as "joint tenants with right of survivorship," then the assets in that account pass legally and automatically to the other account holder, usually a spouse. Similarly, life insurance policies with a named beneficiary will automatically pay out the coverage amount without going through the courts.


In the case of intestacy, Georgia law sets out the rules for passing assets to heirs, that is, the closest living relatives of the deceased. If the deceased was married with no children or other living relatives, the entire undivided estate passes to the spouse. If there are surviving children, the estate is divided among the spouse and children, with the spouse entitled to at least one-third of the estate assets. If there are no children, Georgia law allows parents, then siblings of the deceased to divide the assets with the surviving spouse, again with the spouse entitled to at least one-third.


If there are no surviving relatives, or the heirs cannot be located, the state of Georgia eventually will take custody of the estate assets. After the court appoints an administrator, a notice is published in a general-circulation newspaper for a period of four weeks, after which the court schedules a hearing. If no heirs come forward, the state will then take title to the assets in a legal process known as escheat. Money and property are transferred to an educational fund established by the county where the deceased lived.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Legal Rights for a Widow With No Will in NC


Related articles

Estate Administrator Duties

When a person dies, his estate will likely go through the probate process, whether or not he left a will. During probate, the estate will be collected, debts paid and remaining assets distributed to beneficiaries. The person assigned the duty of managing the estate through this process is called an administrator or executor. Since state statutes govern estate administration, the administrator must follow state law regarding procedures and time frames.

Death Without a Will in Michigan

Under Michigan law, when a person dies without a will, it is said the person died intestate. The law has rules for what happens to a person's property when a person dies without a will. These rules are necessary because there is no will to provide direction as to how the deceased wished to distribute his property. The probate court will distribute property that was not owned jointly, as well as property that did not have a named beneficiary, according to Michigan law.

What to Expect in Tennessee Probate Court

When someone passes away owning property in Tennessee, the probate court is charged with supervising administration of the estate. The depth of the court's involvement will depend on the amount and type of property in the estate, and whether there are any objections raised by those who may inherit under a will or by intestacy laws. The process is highly legal in nature, and for all estates valued at over $25,000, Tennessee requires an attorney to open the probate process and to represent the person appointed to administer the estate. Estates valued at less than that amount and having no real property can take advantage of a streamlined procedure known as a small estate probate.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Responsibilities of an Administrator Over an Estate in New York

When a New York resident dies "testate" (leaving a will), the Surrogate's Court will be asked to appoint the person ...

Financial Obligations of Heirs

The responsibility of paying a debtor's bills after death falls on the estate rather than on heirs receiving an ...

Tennessee Estate Laws on Intestacy

A Tennessee resident who dies without a will leaves behind an intestate estate. Tennessee intestate succession statutes ...

The Hierarchy of Heirs

The hierarchy of heirs is determined by laws that govern inheritance in each state. Some states have adopted the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED