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What happens when someone dies without a will in Georgia?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org

Dying intestate in Georgia

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What happens if someone dies without a will in Georgia?

When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” That person’s assets will be passed down to their heirs through what are called “intestate succession” rules. 

 

If there are assets, the estate may need to go through the probate process. During probate, the probate court will appoint an administrator. The administrator’s job is to make sure the deceased’s assets get distributed. If they want the job, a surviving spouse or sole heir will be appointed as the administrator. Otherwise, the majority of the heirs can choose the administrator with court approval.  

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What are the rules of inheritance?

In Georgia, if you die without a will, any assets leftover after your debts are paid off will go to your living relatives. If you have no living relatives, then any assets will go to the state.

 

The law sets out which relatives will inherit your estate. 

 

If you have a spouse and/or kids, your whole estate goes to them. If you had a child who died before you, their share will be split among their children. If you die with:

  • A spouse but no children, your spouse will inherit your entire estate.

  • Children but no spouse, your children will split everything equally. This includes biological and adopted children. Both a spouse and one child, they will divide the estate equally.

  • A spouse and more than one child, your spouse will get ⅓ and the children will split the rest of the estate equally.

 

If you do not have a spouse or children, then: 

  • If you have living parents, your estate goes to them. 

  • If you do not have living parents, your estate goes to your siblings.

  • If you do not have a spouse, children, parents or siblings then, your estate is inherited in this order:

    • Grandparents,

    • If no grandparents, then split between aunts and uncles. If you have any deceased aunts and uncles, their children will inherit their share equally.

    • If no aunts and uncles, then first cousins will split your estate.

 

If you have none of the above, then a distant relative will inherit. Who gets it will be determined by a complicated formula found in OCGA sec. 53-2-1(b)(8).

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How can assets get distributed to heirs if there is no will?

Distributing assets through probate

If the person who died without a will has assets and debts, their estate will likely need to go through the probate process. To start the probate process, you need to: 

  • File a Petition for Letters of Administration. This will let the court know they must appoint an administrator to distribute the assets of the estate.

    • The form must be filed in the county where the deceased lived.

  • Pay the filing fees. Filing fees may vary by county, so contact your local probate court to determine the exact fees.

  • Once an administrator is appointed, they will pay any debts and then distribute the assets according to the rules of inheritance.

 

Distributing assets without probate

There are some times when probate is not needed. The probate court will grant an Order Declaring No Administration is Necessary if:

  • There is no will,

  • All of the heirs agree how to split the person’s assets, and 

  • There are no debts or any creditors agree that there does not need to be probate proceedings.


Any heir can petition the court for this order. In the petition, all heirs must sign an agreement stating how they will distribute the estate.

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Last Review and Update: Dec 03, 2020