DON’T HAVE A WILL?
Don’t Worry – The Government has Already Made It for You!
Charles and Jennifer (names have been changed) had been living together in unwedded bliss for twelve years, when Jennifer, who owned their condo, died suddenly from a stroke. Being only in her thirties, she had never made a will. A few weeks later I got a frantic call from Charles. Jennifer’s parents, who despised him, had sent him a certified letter giving him a week to vacate the condo or be evicted. I was able to buy him a little more time, but soon Charles, already grief-stricken, was also homeless (even though he had been paying half the mortgage payment), because of the will the State of Georgia had made for Jennifer without her even knowing it.
Most people don’t make their own will, so every state has a law of intestate succession, decreeing who inherits from a dearly departed one with no will. “Intestate” may sound like a male hormone issue, but it is really an inheritance issue! State laws vary, but intestate succession is based only on relationship by blood, adoption or marriage. Georgia law says that since Jennifer had no spouse or children, her parents were her heirs and became the owners of the condo. Georgia has no common-law marriage, so Charles had no more rights to the property than a stranger. Jennifer could have left him the property but never got around to it.
Two other examples of government-mandated inheritance in Georgia:
1. Tom dies without a will, leaving a wife, JoAnn, their ten-year old son, Joey, and Tom’s son Tommy from his previous marriage. Tommy is eighteen and in a drug rehab program. Tom had a brokerage account worth $300,000.00 in his name only. The result? JoAnn gets $100,000.00; Joey gets $100,000.00 that has to go into a court-supervised conservatorship account, to be turned over to him at age 18; and Tommy gets a check for $100,000.00, delivered to him at the rehab facility. Under Georgia law, children of a decedent and the surviving spouse share the probate estate, regardless of whether the children are also children of the surviving spouse, and they get their share when they reach majority (18).
2. Arlene, a childless widow, lives in a house that she owns. Her stepdaughter, Cathy, who quit her job and has cared for Arlene twenty years, lives with her. Arlene thinks of Cathy as the daughter she never had. Arlene dies without a will, leaving a brother, Bill. Arlene’s deceased sister Martha left five children. Neither Bill nor Martha’s children have seen Arlene in decades. The result? Bill gets 50% interest in the house, and Martha’s children each get 10%. Cathy gets nothing, because stepchildren aren’t covered under Georgia intestate law.
Sadly, these harsh results are far from unusual. If you haven’t made a will, the state already has one for you, but your loved ones may not like the results. Carry out YOUR wishes, not the government’s. I have helped protect loved ones and families for nearly 20 years. To find out more, call me, John O. "Jack" Moore, at (770) 277-7767 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation. You may also visit my website at www.johnomoorelaw.