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Georgia Inheritance Laws

Because there are no state-specific taxes in Georgia, it is a favorable state for you and your heirs to protect your estate. This policy is not indicative of Georgia inheritance laws overall, though, as they heavily depend on the property in the estate. The state is also known for having one of the weakest sets on spousal inheritance laws in the nation. Financial advisors can aid you in how to plan your estate. So if you’re in need of some help, take a look at the SmartAdvisor tool that will pair you with financial advisors in your area.

Does Georgia Have an Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax?

No. Georgia does not have an estate tax or an inheritance tax on its inheritance laws. Any deaths after July 1, 2014 fall under this code.

Even with this welcome benefit, there are some returns that must be filed on behalf of the decedent and their estate, such as:

  • Final individual federal and state income tax returns – each due by tax day of the year following the individual’s death
  • Federal estate/trust income tax return – due by April 15 of the year following the individual’s death
  • Federal estate tax return – due nine months after the individual’s death, though an automatic six-month extension is available if asked for prior to the conclusion of the nine-month period
    • This is required only of individual estates that exceed a gross asset and prior taxable gift value of $11.4 million

Because estates are not their own withstanding entities in the eyes of the IRS, the government tax agency requires an employer identification number (EIN). You can do this online, by fax or via mail.

Dying With a Will in Georgia

Georgia considers residents who die with a valid will prepared “testate.” By state law, that means a will must have been signed not only by the decedent, but also by two witnesses. These witnesses cannot be just anyone, as they are required to be at least somewhat acquainted with the property within the will. Unless any of these stipulations are not met, the court will typically follow the decedent’s exact wishes. In the event that there’s no heir named for certain property in the estate, it will fall under intestate succession laws.

Valid wills name an executor to manage the disbursement of the estate’s property to heirs. A judge will need to approve the executor, but once this is done, they become responsible for handling everything related to the estate, including its debts and liabilities. Executors also handle the will’s submission to probate court.

There are two styles of probate that Georgia law employs when dealing with the estates of decedents: solemn form probate and common form probate. They are extremely similar to one another, but the main difference centers on is who gets notified of the probate proceedings.

For solemn form probate, every possible heir who could have received estate property if there were no will must be notified and given an official copy of the will. On the other hand, common form probate eliminates this heir communication requirement, though heirs are allowed to ask for a copy of the will.

It can be tough to get in touch with all heirs, so common form probate should be used whenever there are no issues with the will. But if any party is believed to be looking to contest it, solemn form probate is a better fit. When this occurs, the court will determine a final date by which anyone who wants to contest the will must take action. Although much less frequent, common form probate does also allow parties to contest the will, as long as it’s done within four years of the proceedings.

According to Georgia inheritance laws, you can file a probate petition asking the court to allow the decedent’s surviving spouse and children to take a year’s worth of finances out of the estate. The heirs and anyone owed money from the estate must agree on this to be processed officially.

Dying Without a Will in Georgia

Georgia Inheritance Laws

The term “intestate” refers to when individual passes away without a valid will. However, just because the decedent hasn’t specified where his or her property should end up, doesn’t mean it will go uninherited. So to manage the inheritance of intestate decedents, Georgia has created its intestate succession laws. These are meant to look for any possible relative, near and far, who could inherit your estate.

Although the court will dictate how your intestate estate is distributed, it doesn’t actually do the management for you. Therefore, an executor must be appointed. Since there is no will, the Georgia courts will choose one who is mentally competent and close to or part of the family.

It’s worth noting, though, that you can avoid this entire intestate succession process simply by taking the time to create a thorough will for your estate in accordance with Georgia inheritance laws. If this venture comes off as overwhelmingly difficult, there are financial advisors who can help out.

Spouses in Georgia Inheritance Law

Georgia is probably the state with the weakest spousal inheritance laws. The majority of U.S. states will afford the surviving spouse all of the decedent’s estate whether they have their own kids together or not. For childless marriages, this rule holds true, but if children are included things change drastically. In this case, the decedent’s estate is split evenly between the surviving spouse and all of their children. It’s important to note, though, that a surviving spouse is entitled to a minimum of one-third of the estate, regardless of how that affects the even split.

Disinheriting a Spouse in Georgia Inheritance Law

If a decedent disinherits a spouse, this means that the decedent has essentially deleted him or her from the will, according to Georgia inheritance laws. While many states won’t allow this to happen completely, Georgia is much more open to the possibility. In fact, disinherited spouses are only permitted to receive a monetary allowance for the year that follows the individual’s death. After that, the estate is not obligated to assist the surviving spouse financially whatsoever.

Children in Georgia Inheritance Law

There’s only one situation in Georgia inheritance law when children will receive the complete estate of their parents: when there is an absence of a surviving spouse. In scenarios where there is a surviving spouse, the children are given up to two-thirds of the decedent’s estate, even if the surviving spouse is also their parent, according to Georgia inheritance laws.

Intestate Succession: Spouses & Children
Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property
– If spouse and no children – Entire estate to spouse
– If spouse and children – Estate split evenly between spouse and children
– Spouse is entitled to at least 33% of estate
– If children and no spouse – Entire estate to children

For all intents and purposes, adopted children are the same as biological children under George inheritance law. Because they have been legally claimed by their adoptive parents, full inheritance rights ensue. But if you gave away your own children for adoption, they will not be considered part of the heirs of your estate.

Generally speaking, children you conceived prior to your death but who were born after it are granted normal biological inheritance rights. Georgia does stipulate that the child must live for at least 120 hours after birth and be born within 10 months of your death, though.

Should you have a child illegitimately (outside of your legal marriage), a few boxes must be checked for the person to become a full intestate heir, according to Georgia inheritance laws. Firstly, a court must decide on paternity. You then will have had to recognize your paternity in writing and have signed the birth certificate. There also must be clear physical evidence of your paternity.

Just because a child maintains a relationship with you as a stepchild or foster child does not mean he or she will receive automatic intestate rights to your estate. But if you’d like this person to be included in your will, just write him or her in.

Unmarried Individuals Without Children in Georgia Inheritance Law

People who pass away without surviving children, a surviving spouse or a will have the most complicated intestate succession situation you’ll come across in Georgia. While eventually the state could claim your property as its own, it’ll exhaust every possible heir option it can to attempt to ensure that doesn’t happen. So if you fall into this category, this is how the state will distribute your assets to eligible heirs:

Intestate Succession: Extended Family
Inheritance Situation Who Inherits Your Property
– If no spouse and children – Estate split evenly between grandchildren of deceased children
– If no grandchildren – Entire estate to parents
– If no parents – Estate split evenly between siblings
– If no siblings – Estate split evenly between nieces and nephews
– If no nieces and nephews – Estate split evenly between grandnieces and grandnephews
– If no grandnieces and grandnephews – Entire estate to paternal/maternal grandparents
– If no grandparents – Estate split evenly between paternal/maternal aunts and uncles
– If no aunts and uncles – Estate split evenly between paternal/maternal cousins

In a situation where the state cannot find any heirs, your estate’s property will likely escheat to Georgia, making it official state property. However, the state goes further than most in describing what your property will be used for. Georgia law states that “the estate is transferred to the board of education in the county where the estate’s probate proceeding was filed.” This does require your estate’s executor to file a petition in probate court saying that he or she and the court have failed in finding an heir over the four years since the case began. As a final attempt, this petition opens a 60-day window for any previously unknown heirs to step forward before the transfer to the state is made, according to Georgia inheritance laws.

Non-Probate Georgia Inheritances

Georgia Inheritance Laws

When a decedent dies, certain types of property will not be eligible for inclusion in probate or any related processes, according to Georgia inheritance laws. Typically these are financial accounts, and include the following:

  • Property in a living trust
  • Life insurance payouts
  • 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement accounts
  • Transfer and payable-on-death accounts
  • Property owned in joint tenancy

These exceptions were not randomly chosen. Because they all require the naming of a beneficiary when receiving them, their inheritance has already been worked out. Those that would like these accounts to become a part of their estate upon their death can do so by making their estate the beneficiary.

Other Situations in Georgia Inheritance Law

Whereas some states will weaken the inheritance rights of half-blood relatives, Georgia treats them as if they were wholly related to you. Therefore, if intestate succession calls for it, your siblings and half-siblings will receive the same share of your property.

In Georgia inheritance laws, the inheritance rights that your own children born after your death have are extended to all posthumously born relatives under intestate succession.

If the intestate succession process dictates that your property be left to a relative that is living in the U.S. illegally, they won’t be withheld inheritance rights just because of their immigration status. The same policy applies to non-U.S. citizens as well.

Murderers who were named in the will of their victim will lose all chances of receiving their previously rightful inheritance, according to Georgia inheritance laws. The state government abides by this rule as well, meaning that intestate estates are afforded the same protection.

Resources for Estate Planning

Managing an estate of any kind, whether for that of a recently deceased loved one of for yourself, can be a complex venture to undertake. With taxes to file, possible court proceedings to go through and more, you might want some help from experts.

The SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool will pair you with as many as three nearby financial advisors equipped to handle your estate and inheritance planning needs. Your answers to a few simple questions will dictate which advisors are chosen for you. In other words, be as specific as possible when stating what you’re looking to handle in your financial life.

Photo credit: Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Spanic, ©iStock.com/suesmith2

Chris Thompson, CEPF® Chris Thompson is a retirement, savings, mortgage and credit card expert at SmartAsset. He has reviewed hundreds of credit cards and loves helping people find the one that best matches their financial needs. Chris is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He graduated from Montclair State University where he received the Journalism Achievement Award. Chris’ articles have been featured in places like Yahoo Finance, MSN and Bleacher Report. He lives in New Jersey and is a Mets, Jets and Nets fan.
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