The Alternative to Estate Planning- Intestate Succession Rules
Feb. 14, 2023
Have you been putting off creating an estate plan because you dread the hassle of paperwork or think it's not important? Unfortunately, failing to create a plan puts your estate at risk of being handled in ways that are unexpected and potentially unfavorable. It's essential to understand what happens to your estate when you don't have a plan.
When someone dies without leaving behind legal documents specifying where their assets should go, their assets are distributed according to the laws of intestacy of the state in which the deceased was domiciled prior to passing away. In Georgia, the laws of intestacy are as follows:
· If the deceased is survived by a spouse only, the spouse receives all of their assets;
· If no spouse exists, but the deceased had children, then assets are distributed among any living children, and any children of deceased children;
· If both spouse and children exist, then assets are distributed to both spouse and children, with the spouse receiving at least 1/3 of the estate;
· If no spouse or children, the assets of the estate will go to the living parent(s) of the deceased;
· If no living parent(s), the assets will go to siblings of the deceased;
· If no spouse, children, parent(s) or siblings, then the estate of the deceased will be inherited in this order:
· If no grandparents, the assets of the estate then split between aunts and uncles. If you have any deceased aunts and uncles, their children will inherit their share equally.
· If no aunts and uncles, then first cousins will split your estate.
· If you have none of the above, then a distant relative will inherit. Who gets it will be determined by a complicated formula found in OCGA sec. 53-2-1(b)(8).
· If no surviving family members exist than the state receives all property via escheatment—a process that transfers ownership of unclaimed land and/or money from individuals who pass away without an heir or a will.
· Assets with designated beneficiaries (life insurance policies, retirement accounts) are dispersed directly according to contractual arrangements between the deceased and their beneficiaries.
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