This is the next post in our series on the importance of estate planning for residents of Atlanta, Georgia. Our last article provided an overview of topics which this series will be addressing and stressed the need to speak with an attorney in order to determine all of your options. Speaking with counsel is an important step towards making sure all possibilities are considered when developing your estate plan. In this article we will discuss a situation which, unfortunately, is too common. That situation is someone dying without a last will and testament. If you wish to draft a will then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
Many are under the misunderstanding that their spouse or children will “get everything” when they pass away. The truth of the matter is that when one passes away without having a last will and testament then they are considered to have died “intestate.” Under Georgia’s intestate succession laws the deceased’s assets will be distributed according to a predetermined order. It does not matter if this order of distribution is consistent with the deceased’s actual wishes. Our state’s intestate succession laws serve two purposes. First, they help prevent one’s death from becoming a “free for all” in which heirs attempt to help themselves to various assets. Second, these laws provide a sense of order so that heirs cannot engage in legal disputes over the rights to assets.
As mentioned above, intestate estates are distributed in a predetermined order. Examples of this order include the following:
- If one dies with children, but no spouse, then all assets are equally divided amongst the children
- If one dies with a spouse, but no children, then the spouse will inherit all assets
- If one has a spouse and descendants they would all equally share any intestate assets but the spouse’s share must be at least ⅓ of all assets.
- If one passes away with parents, but no spouse or children, then the parents would inherit all assets
These are just a few examples of how intestate estates are divided. Again, such situations may result in distributions which are not consistent with the deceased’s final wishes. Say, for example, that one is unmarried, has three children, and also has a sibling. Such a person may expect that their sibling would receive a portion of their estate and that any remainder would be equally divided amongst the children. The fact of the matter, however, is that everything would go to the children while the sibling would receive nothing.
Many residents of our state die intestate due to their passing away without a will. While it can be uncomfortable to consider one’s own death it is very important that loved ones not be put through the stress that is created by the probate of an intestate estate. Our Atlanta estate planning attorneys can help prevent such problems by assisting the drafting of a last will and testament. If you need assistance then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
We also service areas including Macon, Savannah, Athens, Kennesaw, Marietta, Decatur, Dunwoody, Stone Mountain, Tucker, Alpharetta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Duluth, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Gainesville, as well as the counties of Bibb, Chatham, Clarke, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Richmond.