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What happens if you die without a will?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Elder Law, Estate Planning

Nobody likes to talk about death, but unfortunately, just like taxes and rain, it is unavoidable.

In planning for your future, estate planning is a critical part of the conversation, including your end-of-life wishes. Some people, unfortunately, delay this until it is too late and die without a will.

Dying without a will, or “dying intestate,” as the law calls it, is like dying, leaving no instructions about what you want to do with your assets.

Your family and close friends would be confused and likely not know what to do or who to call. In Georgia, if you die without a will, the state gets involved.

Whether it does what you want for yourself and your loved ones or not, you will not be present to express your choices, so it is all up to the court now.

What does the state do after someone dies without a will?

The state has a legal process that it must follow if any of its citizens die without a will. This process is usually called probate, and it is the court’s way of managing your assets and debts if you did not plan prior to your passing.

  1. The state looks at your family, beginning with your closest relatives. Your spouse and children come first.
  2. If you have a spouse and no children, your widower will get everything you owned. If you also had children, they will all split your assets between your widower and your children.
  3. If you do not have a spouse or children, your assets go to your parents. If your parents are not present, your siblings will receive your assets.
  4. If you do not have immediate family, extended family will do. The court will look for your aunts, uncles and cousins.
  5. If there is absolutely no family at all, the state takes your assets.

Understanding how the law works is critical because most people, if given the choice, would prefer a say in the matter of who gets their assets. If you have many assets, for example, it is especially critical to keep in mind that dying without a will can lead to complications and unnecessary delays.

Family rifts are common

Dying without a will can also cause rifts between your family members, and between your family and friends. The law is the law—that is clear. However, some of your relatives may want a piece of what you left behind, even though the law does not have the authority to give it to them.

Courts must follow the law. In the list above, you can see that Georgia has its way of distributing assets if a person dies without a will, just like every other state may have its own process.

Make sure you create a clear plan that outlines your desires, wishes, and everything else that is important to you if you wish to have a say in how your assets are distributed.