Surviving Spouse Rights In Georgia: Does A Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything

Surviving Spouse Rights In Georgia - Does A Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything In Georgia - When A Husband Dies What Is The Wife Entitled To In Georgia

What are the surviving spouse rights in Georgia? 

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • years support
  • intestate succession
  • whether you get an elective share
  • property exemptions
  • social security and retirement
  • jointly held property
  • how your prenups affect your rights
  • things to consider for estate planning

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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Surviving Spouse Rights In Georgia

In Georgia, a surviving spouse has several rights:

  • Right to Year’s Support: The spouse can claim a portion of the deceased’s estate for support for one year. This is called “year’s support”. It doesn’t matter what the will says. The probate court decides how much. If there are minor children, this can also support them.
  • Intestate Succession: If the deceased didn’t leave a will, the spouse gets part of the estate. If there are no children, the spouse gets it all. If there are children, they share it with the spouse.
  • No Elective Share: Unlike other states, Georgia doesn’t let a spouse claim a fixed percentage of the estate if they don’t like what the will gives them.
  • Homestead and Property Exemptions: The spouse might keep some of the home’s value safe from creditors. They might also keep some personal property without using it to pay the estate’s debts.
  • Social Security and Retirement Benefits: The spouse may get Social Security benefits based on the deceased’s work. They may also get retirement benefits from the deceased’s plans.
  • Jointly Held Property: If the property was in both names, the spouse gets it without probate.

It’s a good idea to talk to an estate planning or probate lawyer if you’re dealing with a deceased spouse’s estate.

Year’s Support In Georgia

In Georgia, the Year’s Support law provides a safeguard for the surviving spouse (and minor children) after the death of the other spouse. 

It’s meant to ensure that the surviving family members have financial support during the first year after the death. 

Here are key points about Year’s Support in Georgia:

  • Eligibility: The surviving spouse is eligible to apply for Year’s Support. If there are minor children, the Year’s Support can also be used for their benefit.
  • Time Frame to File: The surviving spouse typically has to file for Year’s Support within 24 months (2 years) of the date of death.
  • Amount: The amount awarded as Year’s Support is determined by the probate court. The court considers the family’s standard of living and other factors to set an appropriate amount.
  • Priority Over Other Claims: Year’s Support takes priority over most debts and claims against the estate. This means the surviving spouse’s claim for Year’s Support is paid before other creditors can make claims on the estate.
  • Effect on the Will: Year’s Support can be claimed regardless of what is stipulated in the deceased’s will. This means even if the will does not provide for the surviving spouse, the spouse can still claim Year’s Support.
  • Property Included: Year’s Support may include a variety of assets, such as money, real estate, and personal property. The court has discretion in determining which assets are included.
  • Court Approval: The probate court must approve the Year’s Support claim. Other heirs or creditors may contest the amount claimed, but the court makes the final decision.
  • Effect on Further Inheritance: If the surviving spouse receives assets through Year’s Support, it might reduce the amount they are entitled to receive through intestate succession or under the will.

Year’s Support is an important provision in Georgia law.

It helps protect surviving spouses and minor children from financial hardship after the loss of a family member.

Georgia Intestate Succession

In Georgia, intestate succession laws play a significant role in determining the rights of a surviving spouse when the deceased did not leave a will. 

Here’s how the surviving spouse’s rights are affected:

  • Spouse But No Children: If the deceased was married but had no children, the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.
  • Spouse and Children: If the deceased was married and had children, the estate is divided among the surviving spouse and children. The spouse’s share cannot be less than one-third of the estate. For example, if there is one child, the spouse and child get half each, but if there are two or more children, the spouse gets one-third and the children divide the rest.

It’s important to note that under Georgia law:

  • Adopted Children are treated as biological children for the purposes of inheritance. They share in the estate equally with biological children.
  • Children Born Outside Marriage are also treated the same as those born within a marriage and have an equal share in the estate.

The surviving spouse must typically file documents with the probate court to initiate the intestate succession process. 

The court will then oversee the distribution of the estate according to Georgia’s intestate succession laws.

This ensures the surviving spouse receives their rightful share.

Read More: What Has To Go Through Probate In Georgia

No Elective Share For Surviving Spouses In Georgia

Georgia doesn’t have an elective share for surviving spouses. 

In other states, this elective share lets a surviving spouse get a set percentage of the deceased’s estate. 

This happens even if the will says otherwise. It’s a safety net so they don’t get nothing.

But Georgia uses a different approach. 

Here, a surviving spouse can claim a “year’s support.” 

It’s not a set percentage. 

Instead, the court decides how much property the spouse gets. 

The amount should be enough to support them for a year.

So, in Georgia, if a will leaves a spouse with little or nothing, they can’t claim a set percentage of the estate. 

But they can ask the court for a year’s support.

Homestead and Property Exemptions

In Georgia, surviving spouses can protect their home and personal property from the deceased spouse’s debts through Homestead and Property Exemptions.

Homestead Exemption:

  • This exemption keeps part of your home’s value safe from creditors.
  • As of September 2021, it protects $21,500 of your home’s value.
  • There’s an extra $5,000 available if not used on the home. You can use it to protect personal property.
  • To get this exemption, file an application with your county tax office.

Personal Property Exemptions:

  • This protects your belongings from being used to pay debts.
  • It covers things like furniture, appliances, and clothes.
  • As of September 2021, it protects up to $10,000 worth of personal property.

These exemptions help ensure that you, as a surviving spouse, don’t lose your home or essential belongings because of your deceased spouse’s debts. 

File the necessary paperwork with your county to claim these exemptions.

Read More: How Much Does An Estate Have To Be Worth To Go To Probate?

Social Security and Retirement Benefits

In Georgia, a surviving spouse may receive Social Security and retirement benefits.

Social Security Benefits:

  • If the deceased spouse worked long enough to qualify for Social Security, the surviving spouse can get survivor benefits.
  • The surviving spouse can start receiving these benefits as early as age 60, or age 50 if disabled.
  • If the surviving spouse is taking care of the deceased’s child under age 16, they can get benefits at any age.

Retirement Benefits:

  • If the deceased spouse had retirement plans like a 401(k) or an IRA, the surviving spouse might be entitled to these funds.
  • Usually, the surviving spouse is the default beneficiary for these retirement accounts.
  • The surviving spouse can roll over the deceased’s retirement account into their own without paying penalties.

It’s important to apply for these benefits promptly. 

For Social Security, contact the Social Security Administration

For retirement benefits, reach out to the deceased’s retirement plan administrator.

Read More: Can I Collect My Deceased Spouse’s Social Security And My Own At The Same Time?

Jointly Held Property

In Georgia, if a married couple owns property together, it often has a special status called joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.

When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically gets the deceased spouse’s share of the property. 

It’s a direct transfer. 

The property doesn’t go through probate.

This applies to real estate, bank accounts, and other assets that are in both names.

To make sure the property passes this way, the ownership documents must say it’s a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship

It must be clear on the title or deed.

This is a simple way to pass property to a surviving spouse without any hassle or court involvement.

Read More: Am I Entitled To My Husband’s Property If He Dies And My Name Isn’t On The Deed?

Post And Prenuptial Agreements In Georgia

In Georgia, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements can affect surviving spouse rights.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract made before marriage. 

It sets rules for dividing assets if the marriage ends.

A post-nuptial agreement is similar, but couples make it after getting married.

Both agreements can set terms for asset division in case of death.

They can override default inheritance laws. 

For example, a spouse might agree to take less than the law would give them.

For these agreements to be valid, both parties must disclose their assets fully.

Both parties should enter the agreement voluntarily, without pressure.

If an agreement is unfair to one party, the court might not enforce it.

Read More: How Much Money Can You Inherit Without Paying Taxes On It?

Estate Planning Considerations For Surviving Spouse Rights

Estate planning in Georgia is important to protect surviving spouse’s rights.

  • Wills: Make a will. It lets you decide how your assets get divided. Without a will, Georgia’s intestate laws take over. Your spouse might not get what you want them to have.
  • Trusts: Consider setting up trusts. Trusts can protect assets, minimize taxes, and make asset distribution smoother. A spousal trust can provide for a surviving spouse while keeping the estate intact for children.
  • Property Ownership: Check how you own property. Joint ownership with the right of survivorship means the surviving spouse automatically gets the property.
  • Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance: Name your spouse as the beneficiary on retirement accounts and life insurance. This ensures they get these assets directly.
  • Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive: Give your spouse the power of attorney. It lets them handle financial matters if you can’t. A healthcare directive lets them make medical decisions for you.
  • Guardianship: If you have minor children, name your spouse as their guardian. It ensures that they’ll take care of the children if something happens to you.
  • Tax Planning: Plan for taxes. Know the tax implications of asset transfers. Structure your estate to minimize the tax burden on your surviving spouse.
  • Regular Review: Review your estate plan regularly. Update it as needed for life changes like births, deaths, or changes in financial status.

Estate planning is about making sure your spouse is taken care of. 

Take time to plan and get professional help to set it up right.

Navigating Probate Court For Surviving Spouses

Navigating probate court in Georgia as a surviving spouse involves several steps:

  1. File a Petition: Start by filing a petition with the probate court. This asks the court to acknowledge the death and start the probate process.
  2. Publish a Notice: Publish a notice in the local newspaper. This lets creditors and other parties know that the estate is in probate.
  3. Inventory the Estate: Make a list of the deceased’s assets. This includes bank accounts, real estate, and personal property.
  4. Settle Debts: Use estate assets to pay off any debts. This might include credit cards, loans, and medical bills.
  5. Distribute Assets: After paying debts, distribute the remaining assets. If there’s a will, follow it. If not, Georgia’s intestate laws dictate who gets what.
  6. File Tax Returns: File any necessary tax returns for the deceased. Pay any taxes due from the estate’s assets.
  7. Close the Estate: Once you’ve settled debts and distributed assets, ask the court to close the estate. This ends the probate process.

During probate, the surviving spouse has certain rights. 

These include a year’s support, property exemptions, and a share of the estate if there is no will.

Being organized and keeping good records is key. 

It’s also helpful to understand the timeline and what the court expects at each step.

FAQs About Surviving Spouse Rights In Georgia

These are other questions that our clients commonly have about surviving spouse rights in Georgia. 

Does A Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything In Georgia?

In Georgia, if a person dies without a will, a spouse does not automatically inherit everything

Georgia’s laws divide the estate among the surviving spouse and any children. 

The spouse is guaranteed at least a portion of the estate, but not necessarily the entire estate. 

However, if a person has a will, the will dictates how the estate is distributed. 

This means if the will states that the spouse inherits everything, then the spouse will receive the entire estate. 

In cases with a will, the distribution follows the instructions in the will. 

Without a will, the distribution follows Georgia’s intestacy laws.

Is A Wife Entitled To Her Husband's Inheritance If He Dies?

In Georgia, a wife may not automatically receive her husband’s inheritance when he dies. 

If the husband leaves a will, the distribution follows the terms of the will. 

If there is no will, Georgia’s laws of intestacy apply. 

Under these laws, the wife shares the estate with the husband’s children. 

If there are no children, the wife usually inherits the entire estate. 

But, if the husband’s parents are alive, the wife might have to share the estate with them.

When A Husband Dies What Is The Wife Entitled To In Georgia?

When a husband dies in Georgia, the wife usually gets a share of his property. 

If the husband left a will, the wife receives what the will says. 

If there is no will, Georgia law decides.

The wife usually gets at least one-third of the husband’s assets. 

This is called the widow’s share. 

If there are children, they divide the rest. 

The wife also gets to keep a year’s worth of living expenses. 

This helps her manage while the estate gets settled. 

Lastly, if the husband had life insurance naming the wife as beneficiary, she receives that money too.

Is An Ex Wife Considered A Surviving Spouse?

No, an ex-wife is not considered a surviving spouse in Georgia.

The term “surviving spouse” refers to a person who was married to the deceased at the time of death.

When a couple divorces, the legal marital status ends.

This means that the ex-wife is not entitled to the same rights and benefits that a surviving spouse may receive under Georgia law.

Get Help With Surviving Spouse Rights In Georgia

If you want help from a Georgia estate planning and probate law firm, fill out the form below. 

At The Hive Law, we understand the importance of:

  • protecting your hard-earned assets 
  • ensuring your family’s future
  • not losing everything to creditors and lawsuits
  • properly (and legally) distributing assets 

We only accommodate a limited number of clients each month.

So don’t miss your opportunity to work with our trust fund lawyers.

Benefits of our estate planning and probate services:

  • Tailored solutions to fit your unique needs and goals
  • Expert guidance in navigating complex tax and legal matters
  • Preservation of your wealth for future generations
  • Streamlined asset distribution according to your wishes

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate estate planning strategies:

  • Creditors seizing your assets
  • Lawsuits jeopardizing your family’s financial security
  • Family disputes over inheritance
  • Costly and time-consuming probate processes

Talk soon.

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