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 as follows:

A. If you are married without children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate.

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 inherit.

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 state's coffers.

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!

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