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What does the spouse receive if a person dies without a will?

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2022 | ESTATE PLANNING - Estate Administration & Probate

Estate planning is one of those topics that people in Georgia and across the nation do not like to think about. There are many reasons why they might avoid taking the necessary steps to create even a basic will. However, despite the worry that it can cause, it is important to think about loved ones and how they will be taken care of after a person has died. This is especially worrisome for the spouse.

What happens if a person dies without a will or other estate planning document?

Those who do not take the basic steps of crafting a will or other estate planning document are running the risk of leaving their prospective heirs at the mercy of state laws if a person died without a will. This is also known as dying intestate. If it happens, there are basic rules for how property will be distributed.

The family situation will determine how property is split. Particularly, the failure to have a will might have a profound impact on the spouse and their future. If the person had a spouse but no children, the spouse is the sole heir and will receive all of the person’s property. If there was a child or other descendants, the spouse must share the property with the children. They must also share with their offspring’s descendants if the offspring died.

This issue can be challenging if the person had a previous marriage and children from that marriage. There is often confusion under these circumstances as the distribution of the property is not clear cut. There may have been disagreements with the former spouse and the relationship with children could be difficult. Still, if there is no will, the spouse at the time of death will be obligated to share the property with the person’s children.

Having an estate plan can prevent the person from dying intestate

To avoid these inherent problems and the potential that a current spouse will not be taken care of as the person wants, it is wise to think about an estate plan. These can be complex or they can be relatively simple. The amount of property and assets they have as well as their family situation will dictate how extensive the document should be.

Regardless of the financial and personal needs, it is useful to discuss the objectives with experienced estate planning professionals. Calling for advice and guidance is a vital first step.