What Happens If You Die Without A Will
If you do not make a will or use some other legal method to transfer your
property when you die, state law will determine what happens to your property.
This process is called "intestate succession." Your property will be
distributed to your relatives according to a statutory formula.
In the state of Georgia, the rules of inheritance if you die without a will are
A. If you are married without children, your spouse will inherit your entire
B. If you are married with children, your spouse and children will share
equally your estate with the spouse entitled to no less than one-third of your
estate. So, if you have one child with your spouse, they each will receive
fifty percent (50%) of your estate. If you have four children and a spouse,
your spouse will receive one-third (1/3rd) of your estate and the four children
will share equally the remaining two-thirds (2/3rd).
C. If you are not married but have children, the children will inherit your
estate, shared equally between them. Please note that if a child of yours is
deceased but has living children, those living children will inherit your
deceased child's share. This is called distribution "per stirpes".
D. If you do not have a spouse and do not have children, then your parents will
E. If you do not have a spouse and do not have children and your parents are
deceased, then your siblings will share equally your estate, per stirpes.
F. Assuming the facts in E above, but you have no siblings, then your
grandparents will share your estate equally.
G. If your grandparents are deceased, then your uncles and aunts will be
entitled to your estate.
H. If no relatives can be found to inherit your property, it will go into your
This may or may not be how you would like your estate to be distributed after
your death. Furthermore, each state has specific rules of inheritance set forth
by statute. This is the scheme in Georgia, but it may be dramatically different
in another state. There are several other factors that you should know
regarding intestate succession. For example, in Georgia a child born out of
wedlock may inherit in the same manner as though legitimate from the child's
mother. However, that same child is not entitled to inherit from the father
unless certain steps are taken. Please see O.C.G.A. §53-2-3 for further
details. Children conceived by artificial insemination are presumed to be
legitimate and therefore, entitled to inherit under the laws of intestacy.
If your spouse dies without a will, and then you die within six months of that
time without a will, the property from your spouse that you would have received
goes to your spouse's heirs, not yours, even though you outlived your spouse.
These are only a few examples of what can happen without a will. To prevent
unintentional distribution of property to heirs you would not have selected,
you need a will!