In Georgia, if a resident of the state dies intestate, that is without a will, Georgia statute decides who receives their property. If the deceased has a spouse or children, the property is divided among such people. If there is not a spouse and no children or grandchildren, the property is distributed to the deceased’s parents. The law continues to go out among the family until there is a living relative found. For some people, the distribution provided for under Georgia law is the distribution they desire. This is often the case where the deceased has a spouse but no children, the property is distributed entirely to the spouse. Frequently, the distribution provided by law in the absence of a will is not preferred.
We recently received a call from a mother whose son had recently passed away. The son was not married and did not have children or grandchildren, so his heirs under the law were his parents. The issue was that his parents were divorced and his mother had provided for him throughout his education, whereas his father had barely spoken to him in a decade. The deceased’s mother was asking us how the father could receive the same distribution she was entitled to receive, as she had a much closer relationship with her son. The problem is that Georgia law does not take into account the quality of a relationship when selecting heirs. Short of being able to prove that the father was not in fact the deceased’s father or showing that the parental rights have been terminated, there is nothing that can be done to prevent father from receiving distributions from the estate.
Preventing assets from being distributed to estranged relatives is one of many reasons estate planning is important. Assets have been earned throughout life and a good estate plan can ensure that they are not wasted on death.