The number of people without an estate plan is a cause for concern. In 2020, almost 48% of adults ages 55 and older have yet to begin the planning process. If you are among these, the absence of a plan puts you at risk of intestacy, which will create headaches and confusion for your beneficiaries.

How intestacy succession works

Intestacy refers to the absence of an estate plan when a person dies. When no plan exists, the estate will disburse through probate court based on Georgia’s succession laws. These laws give your spouse, then your children, priority to your estate. If you are married and have no children, your estate will pass to your spouse. If you have children, though, your spouse will receive at least one-third of it. The remainder will divide equally among your children. If you have children yet are unmarried, they will receive the entirety of your estate.

If you are unmarried and have no children, your estate will disburse based on your next closest relation, beginning with:

  • Your parents
  • Your siblings or their descendants
  • Your grandparents
  • Your parents’ siblings or their descendants
  • The state of Georgia (if you have no surviving descendants)

The importance of creating an estate plan

To prevent intestacy, you will want to create an estate plan. Doing so gives you full control over the disbursement of your assets. If you want to pass property to family and friends or donate part of your legacy, you will need to record these wishes to guarantee they happen. A proper estate plan can also help your assets avoid probate. By holding them in a revocable trust and naming beneficiaries to retirement accounts, bank accounts and your life insurance policy, you can ensure they will disburse outside it.

Putting off estate planning can lead to intestacy. If you have yet to start, you will want to sooner rather than later. An attorney can help you work out an arrangement that protects your assets.