Sibling Inheritance Law in Georgia

By Bernadette A. Safrath

A person can amass a significant amount of property during his life. All of that property will be divided when he dies. In Georgia, a person can choose who receives his property by naming beneficiaries in a will. Anyone can be named as a beneficiary, including the decedent’s siblings. If he does not make a will, his property passes through intestacy law. A sibling may be entitled to inherit intestate but other potential beneficiaries can inherit before him.

Wills

If a sibling is named as a beneficiary in a Georgia will, she will be entitled to her inheritance if the will meets the state’s requirements for validity. The testator, the person making the will, must be a minimum of 14 years old. This age is rather uncommon, as most states require a testator to have reached the age of majority, 18. Additionally, the testator must be mentally competent and be making the will voluntarily, free from any undue influence. Lastly, the will must be in writing and contain the testator’s signature. The testator must sign the will in front of two witnesses, who will also sign the will, verifying the testator’s identity and competence. The will is valid unless revoked by a new will or destruction of the old will and takes effect when the testator dies. Any named beneficiaries, including a sibling, will receive their inheritance at the end of the probate process.

Executor Responsibilities

A testator can name his sibling as the executor of his estate. The executor should be someone the testator trusts because he is responsible for handling the estate’s assets during the probate process and then distributing them to the beneficiaries in the will. If a sibling is appointed as the executor, he must submit the will to the probate court located in the decedent’s county of residence. He must take control of all the assets, notify beneficiaries of their pending inheritance, pay all outstanding debts and administrative costs, sell any assets as instructed in the will and finally, distribute the assets to all beneficiaries in accordance with the testator’s wishes in the will. The sibling executor will be entitled to any bequest left to him in the will, as well as any fee awarded by the court for serving as executor, generally a small percentage of the estate.

Intestate

When a person dies without a will, his property will pass according to Georgia’s intestacy laws. A sibling is not the first heir entitled to inherit, but he may if other heirs are already deceased or do not exist. Under Section 53-2-1(b)(1) of the Georgia Code, a decedent’s surviving spouse is the first heir entitled to inherit by intestacy. The decedent’s children are secondary heirs. If there are no children, the decedent’s parents may inherit. Section 53-2-1(b)(5) permits a sibling to inherit if the parents predeceased the decedent. If there are multiple siblings, they each inherit an equal share of the decedent’s intestate estate.

Nonprobate Assets

Certain assets cannot be included in a decedent’s will, though a sibling may still be the beneficiary. If the decedent had a life insurance policy and named the sibling as the beneficiary, the sibling is will receive the proceeds from the policy when a death certificate is submitted to the life insurance company.

If the decedent owned any property jointly with siblings, the surviving siblings will inherit the decedent’s percentage of ownership in equal shares. For example, if three siblings inherited a home from their father, the two surviving siblings would each inherit half of the decedent’s one-third share of ownership. This is because joint property is owned with a right of survivorship so surviving owners automatically inherit a decedent owner’s interest in the property.

About the Author

Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.

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