Q&A with Loraine: Who Would Inherit in This Situation?

Question: Who would be the heir to an estate in this situation? The individual has a Will, but it is not up to date, and everyone named in it is deceased. The individual has no surviving spouse, children, great-grandchildren, or parents. 

In terms of living relatives, there is one grandchild and three siblings. Another grandchild predeceased the individual, but that grandchild had no children of their own. Would the estate go to the one living grandchild, the siblings, or be shared? 

Loraine’s Answer: It’s important to determine if the Will contains language that spells out what should happen if all the Will’s beneficiaries are deceased. If the Will says what happens in this situation, the Will controls. If the Will doesn’t address this situation, the state’s intestacy rules will determine the beneficiaries of the decedent’s probate estate, as if the person died without a Will.  

Under Georgia law, in the family situation you describe, the grandchild who is living would be the only heir. The deceased individual’s siblings would only be heirs if the decedent was not survived by any spouse, parent, or descendant. (“Descendants” includes children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.) 

Key Estate Planning Takeaways: If none of the beneficiaries listed in a Will are living and the Will does not provide for any alternative distribution, then state intestacy laws control what happens to any assets that pass under the Will. In Georgia, as long as there is any living spouse, descendant, or parent of a deceased person, that descendant’s siblings will not receive any property under the intestacy laws.  

This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers based on responses from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning. 

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