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Heirs Determination in Georgia

Thompson Mungo Firm Sept. 6, 2022

Heirs determination is a critical process to identify the rightful heirs of a deceased person who did not have a properly executed last will and testament in his or her lifetime. There are rules of inheritance that are specific rules in the state of Georgia that Identify your heirs-at-law if you pass away intestate or without a will. 

Under GA CODE 53-2-1, when a person dies without a will, their heirs are decided by the following rules:

A. SPOUSE AND CHILDREN 

  1. If the deceased person has a SPOUSE but NO CHILDREN, the SPOUSE will inherit the entire estate.

  2.  If the deceased person has a SPOUSE and CHILDREN, the inheritance will be equally divided among the SPOUSE and CHILDREN. The spouse's share must be less than one-third of the estate.

  3. If the deceased person has CHILDREN but NO SPOUSE, the CHILDREN will receive the inheritance in equal shares. CHILDREN are the first-degree heirs of the dead person's estate. A grandchild will only receive a share if his or her parent (decedent's son or daughter) is no longer alive to receive his or her share.

Under Georgia law, legally adopted children will receive an equal share of the estate with biological children. Children born after a decedent's death are considered heirs, provided the child is born within ten months of the decedent's death and survived 120 hours or more after birth. Also, half-blood siblings, whether on the mother's or father's side, are considered and treated equally with the whole blood siblings so that children of the same parent are treated as brothers and sisters to each other.

B. EXTENDED FAMILY

  1. If the deceased person has NO SPOUSE and NO CHILDREN, the PARENTS will inherit the entire estate. The parents are the second-degree heirs of a decedent’s estate. In some cases, if a person dies with no spouse, no children, but with grandchildren, the inheritance will be equally divided among the GRANDCHILDREN.

  2. If the deceased person has NO PARENTS, the inheritance will be equally divided among the SIBLINGS. The siblings are the third-degree heirs of the dead person's estate.

  3. If the deceased person has NO SIBLINGS, the inheritance will be equally divided among NIECES and NEPHEWS.

  4. If the deceased person has NO NIECES and NEPHEWS, the inheritance will be equally divided among PATERNAL/MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS. The grandparents are the fourth-degree heirs of a dead person's estate.

  5. If a deceased person has NO GRANDPARENTS, the inheritance will be equally divided among PATERNAL/MATERNAL AUNTS AND UNCLES. The uncles and aunts are the fifth-degree heirs of a deceased person's estate.

  6. If a deceased person has NO AUNTS AND UNCLES, the inheritance will be equally divided among PATERNAL/MATERNAL FIRST COUSINS.

If the court cannot identify any HEIRS, the entire estate's property will escheat or be turned over to the state. Georgia law stipulates that "the estate is transferred to the board of education in the county where the estate's probate proceedings were filed."

If you are still uncertain and confused about how to determine the heirs of a deceased person, refer to the "Heirs Determination Worksheet". This document will guide you in determining your lawful heirs.