We Help Families
Plan For & Protect
Their Legacies

How Does Georgia Prioritize Estate Settlements?

Thompson Mungo Firm Dec. 13, 2023

Order of Priority in Georgia Pursuant to O.C.G.A § Code § 53-7-40 (2020):

In Georgia, the orderly settlement of an estate's debts is governed by the guidelines outlined in Georgia Code § 53-7-40 (2020). According to this legal provision, all property of the estate, both real and personal, is liable for the payment of claims against the estate in a specific order:

  1. Year's Support for the Family: The first priority is providing a year's support. This ensures the surviving family members are cared for during the initial period following the decedent's passing.

  2. Funeral Expenses:  Regardless of whether the decedent has a surviving spouse, funeral expenses take precedence. The amount corresponds to the circumstances of the decedent's life. In solvent estates, the personal representative has the authority to ensure suitable protection for the grave.

  3. Administration Expenses: Other necessary administrative expenses follow, ensuring the efficient handling of the estate's affairs. This includes fees associated with the probate process and additional costs incurred in administering the estate.

  4. Last Illness Expenses: Costs related to the decedent's final illness are considered, ensuring that any medical bills or expenses incurred during the last stages of life are appropriately addressed.

  5. Government Debts: Unpaid taxes and other debts owed to the state or federal government hold priority over other claims. Clearing these obligations is crucial in settling the estate.

  6. Judgments, Secured Interests, and Liens: Liens, judgments, and secured interests created during the decedent's lifetime are addressed next. The order of the liens determines the priority of payment. Secured interests and liens on specific property take precedence only to the extent of that property.

  7. General Claims: Finally, all other claims against the estate are considered after addressing the preceding priorities. This includes any remaining debts or obligations.

This systematic approach ensures fair and organized distribution of the estate's assets, reflecting the legal framework unless otherwise provided by law.

While understanding claim priorities is crucial, remember that estate settlement involves more than just numbers. Communication, empathy, and respect for the deceased's wishes are essential to navigate this emotional and complex process. Whether you're an executor, family member, or beneficiary, approaching the challenges with care and understanding can ensure a smooth and dignified resolution.