Who needs a Will? Part 2: If you want to decide who gets your stuff.

You need a Will if you want to decide who gets your stuff.

A lot of people think that, if you don’t have a Will, then everything goes to your spouse. Or that the estate Administrator decides how the property is divided. Or that you can just tell a friend or family member where you want everything to go. None of these is true.

If a person dies without a Will, Georgia law* dictates who receives assets, and how much. Basically, your assets are divided among your family in fractions based on who and how many family members are alive when you die.

More specifically:

  • Spouse and no children** - all to spouse

  • Children** and no spouse - equal shares to each child

  • Spouse and 1 or 2 children** - equal shares to spouse and each child**

  • Spouse and 3 or more children** - 1/3 to spouse, the children** split the remaining 2/3 in equal shares

  • No spouse or children** - all to surviving parent or parents in equal shares

  • No spouse, children** or parents - all to siblings** in equal shares

  • No spouse, children**, parents, or siblings** - all to surviving grandparent or grandparents in equal shares

  • And so on, and so on ...

This is the law. Friends, stepchildren, children’s spouses, college roommates, favorite charities, etc., get nothing. That crazy uncle who always thought Thanksgiving dinner was the best time to argue politics could receive the same as the nice aunt who taught you to drive. The child who hasn’t called you in 20 years could receive more than the grandchild who brought you donuts every Saturday.

Neither your family, friends, Administrator, lawyer, or anyone else can change this system of distribution.

However, with a Will, you get to decide who gets what. If you want a specific house, car, gun, ring, etc. to go to a specific person, you can say that in your Will. If you want to prevent certain people from inheriting anything (like your cousin that’s in jail) then you can do that in your Will. Or if you want to include certain people (like the friend who helped you through your divorce), you can do that, too.

You also can avoid leaving property to minors.

So, if you want to avoid the game of Inheriting Relative Roulette and decide for yourself who gets what, you need a Will. Otherwise, the Georgia General Assembly will decide for you.

*Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1(c)

**Or their descendants, if they predecease you. If this is the case, things can get really complicated, including multiplying fractions. You don’t want to force your loved ones to have to multiply fractions, do you?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

The statements in this blog are generalities, and exceptions exist. And, as always, this post is not legal advice. If you have any questions about this information or about what to do when a loved one passes, please contact us.