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What happens if I die without a will?

Many people do not have wills and may wonder if they really need one. While the decision to draft a will or not is a personal one, many arguments for having a will come down to the amount of choice you want to have over what happens to your property after your death.

Dying without a legally valid will is called dying intestate. This means that Georgia's intestacy succession laws will govern who will inherit from your estate. Your wishes will not be a factor when determining where your assets go.

Intestate succession laws prioritize which surviving relatives will inherit from your estate. If you have a spouse but no children, your spouse will be your only heir. If you have a spouse and a child, your estate will be divided between them. If you do not have a spouse, any children you have will split your estate, or if you have no children and no spouse, your parents stand to inherit your estate. Siblings are next in line, followed by grandparents, then aunts and uncles.

Possible complications

For many people, intestate succession laws may not sound so bad. However, there are several situations that intestate succession laws may not treat as you might.

One example is if you are unmarried but have a significant other. If you die without a will, that person will most likely not inherit anything via intestate succession. Instead your children or your parents may wind up with everything.

Another situation is if you have minor children and both you and the their other parent die. In this situation the court will decide who will take care you your children. While the child’s best interests are always considered, you know your children best, so you are probably best equipped to determine who should take care of them in your place. With a will, you can name a guardian for your minor children.

Also, the relationships people have with their family members are almost always complicated. Perhaps you are close with your sister but estranged from your parents, or maybe you had a fight with an adult child and have not spoken with him or her in years. With a will you can choose who inherits and how much they inherit. You are not limited to family members and you can even choose to donate money to a cause you care about.

The decision to have a will or not comes down to whether or not you want a choice in the distribution of your property and guardianship of your minor children after you pass away. While this decision is completely personal, most adults would benefit from more personalized plans than intestate succession can offer.

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