Married couples often believe they don’t need Wills because if one of them died, everything would simply pass to the survivor. Whether that happens depends on how the assets are titled or if there is a designated beneficiary. If there are assets titled just in the deceased spouse’s name, with no beneficiary, it isn’t that simple.
If a married person with children dies without a Will, Georgia inheritance law directs that those assets pass in equal shares to the surviving spouse and the children, with the spouse receiving a minimum one third share.
For example, if a woman married a man who had two children, and moved into the house he owned, when her husband died without a Will, she would find that her stepchildren now owned two thirds of that home.
In Georgia, for the ownership of real estate to pass automatically to a surviving owner, the Deed must state that it is joint with right of survivorship. If it does not say that, then each owner owns a percentage. In the same example, if her husband added her to the Deed as an owner, but did not include the provision that it was with right of survivorship, then after his death she would continue to own her one half, but she would inherit only one third of his one half, with his children inheriting the other two thirds. Still not a great result for her.
If her husband had written a Will, he could have left her full ownership of the home, or at least the right to live in the home for her lifetime.
This is just one example of the unpleasant results that survivors face because someone they loved and trusted died without a Will. It may not be pleasant to think about your own mortality, but writing a Will is the responsible thing to do for the people you love. If you haven’t gotten around to having your Will prepared, how about a New Year’s Resolution to finally get a Will next year?
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