An alarming number of American adults have yet to address the issue of estate planning (let alone draw up a will). If you happen to fall amongst this group, you may be worried that stipulating how you want your estate dispersed once you are gone will alienate or offend some of those that you love. Better to let them decide how to divide up your estate themselves, right?

The only problem with that line of thinking is that the law does not allow it. Indeed, the state has very well-defined guidelines that detail how your estate is to be dispersed if you die intestate (without a will). These laws take the decision of who gets what completely out of yours and your heirs’ hands (and depending on your current situation, you may not concur with the state’s plans for your estate).

Local intestate succession guidelines can be found in Section 53-2-1 of the Georgia Code. Here it states that if you die intestate, your surviving spouse would inherit your entire estate if you have not surviving descendants. If you do, then your spouse would share equally in your estate with them (with your spouse’s portion being no less than one-third of the total value of your estate). If you are not married or your spouse precedes you in death, your estate passes in the following order:

  • Your descendants
  • Your parents
  • Your siblings
  • Your grandparents
  • Your uncles, aunts and their descendants
  • Your next of kin

What if you wish to leave a portion of your estate to a friend, to your company or to a charitable organization? Such allowances are not permissible under intestate succession. If you want that to happen, you must document it in a will.