Georgia allows residents to determine how their assets get distributed after they die through a last will and testament. Wills can be used to distribute both real and personal property. However, when a person dies without a will, their property is distributed in accordance with the state's laws of intestate succession.
Whenever a person dies, their property, generally called the estate, can be distributed according to the terms of any last will and testament left by the decedent. Georgia law requires wills meet specific legal requirements. To be considered valid, a will must be made by someone at least 14 years old who is of sound mind and must be witnessed by at least two competent individuals. Any will that meets these requirements can dispose of property in any way that is not contrary to any other laws in the state.
If a person dies without a will, their property still gets distributed but in accordance with a different set of laws. The laws of intestate succession apply in these situations, and establish a predetermined method through which property is passed on after a person's death. For example, Georgia Code § 52-2-1 states that when a person dies without a will and leaves behind a spouse and two children, the spouse and children share the estate equally. Even if the decedent leaves behind siblings in this situation, state law says they are not entitled to any property under the rules of intestate succession.
The process through which property is distributed after death in Georgia is governed by the probate laws. These laws establish a procedure whereby the court oversees the distribution of estate assets. Typically in probate proceedings, the court will appoint and administrator to oversee the distribution process. The administrator is typically either named in the will, or appointed by the court in the case of intestate succession. The administrator is responsible for inventorying all estate assets, paying any remaining debts, and then distributing the estate property in accordance with the will or the laws of intestate succession.