Dying Without a Will in Georgia

By Maggie Lourdes

As in most states, if you die without a will in Georgia, or make an invalid will, your assets will be distributed according to state law. This is known as leaving an intestate estate, and Georgia probate laws determine which surviving heirs will inherit your assets. Residents of Georgia can prevent intestate estates by leaving valid wills that adhere to the state's probate laws.

Surviving Spouse

In Georgia, your spouse inherits all of your intestate estate if you have no living children or grandchildren when you die. If you are survived by a spouse and children, they will equally share your estate. The law provides that a surviving spouse always takes a minimum of one-third of the estate regardless of the number of surviving children. If you die with no living children, but grandchildren survive you, they take the share that would have gone to your children were they living. Surviving children from other relationships inherit equally with the children you have with your surviving spouse.

No Spouse or Children

If a Georgia resident leaves no spouse, children or grandchildren, the state's intestate succession laws require that his surviving parents equally inherit the estate's assets. If the deceased is not survived by parents, the next in line to inherit are siblings, followed by nieces and nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in that order.

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Intestate Estates Without Heirs

When a Georgia resident dies with no intestate heirs, the estate is transferred to the board of education in the county where the estate's probate proceeding was filed. The transfer is made when the estate's personal representative files a petition in probate court that verifies no heirs were located within four years after the estate opened. The law allows an additional 60 days for any unknown heirs to object before the estate becomes the property of the board of education.

Valid Wills Avoid Intestacy

A valid will avoids intestacy and ensures that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. In Georgia, a mentally competent person, 14 years or older, can make a will. The document must be signed and dated before two witnesses who are familiar with its contents. The person who creates the will, or testator, must sign it freely and voluntarily. If the testator was subjected to fraud or duress in creating or signing the will, the document may be declared invalid and the assets of the estate pass to heirs under the state's laws of succession.

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Sibling Inheritance Law in Georgia


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What if the Heir Predeceases the Decedent in Texas?

In Texas, if an heir of a person dies before him, what happens to the heir's share of the estate depends on whether the decedent left a will. Heirs commonly include the decedent's children and spouse. Because a will usually leaves instructions for the shares of predeceased heirs, the will's terms determine where the deceased heir's share goes. If the decedent died intestate, or without a valid will, Texas laws decide who inherits the heir's share.

Probate Laws on the Next of Kin

When someone dies without a will, state laws -- the so-called "laws of intestate succession" -- determine who inherits the estate. If the deceased left a surviving spouse or children, these people are considered "next of kin" and generally inherit the entire estate. Although state laws vary, there is a common descent and distribution scheme that applies to determine who is next of kin -- that is, next in line to inherit -- if there is no surviving spouse or children.

Types of Heirs

In general, an heir is a person who is entitled to inherit all or part of a deceased person’s estate. However, in legal terms, heir has a narrower meaning. The term "heir” specifically refers to a person who inherits assets from the estate of a person who died without a will. There are two major types of heirs.

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