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    If an estate is never opened, and heirs later die, do the surviving heirs inherit the entire estate?

    do the surviving heirs inherit the estate
    do the surviving heirs inherit the estate

    This is a great probate law question that highlights a common misconception in Georgia probate law. The answer is more complicated than the question seems.

    So, let’s say that the mother dies without a spouse and leaves three children who survive her. Nothing is ever done with the mother’s estate. Years later, after two of the children have died, the third wants to move the real estate into her name. Do the surviving heirs inherit the estate?

    The basic answer is that when looking to see who receives property from an estate, we look at the world as it existed on the date of death. So, in a situation like the one above, being the last living family member does not mean that you will receive all of the property.

    Instead, each family member that was entitled to inherit on the date of death is still entitled to inherit. If one of those persons is deceased, then that person’s estate will stand in their shoes to inherit.

    So, in our example above, all three children are entitled to inherit. Since two of them are now deceased, then their estates may inherit their portion. If nothing was ever done with their estates, then those estates would likely need to be opened in probate court as well. The portion of the property going to each deceased child’s estate will go through probate and will either be used to pay debts or will be distributed according to the child’s will or, if no will, according to Georgia probate law.

    Related Topic:  What Does Intestate Mean?

    In the end, though, the mother’s estate is still split three ways – the same as it would have been on the date of her death.

    This can be a complicated situation to address. If you would like help, please contact a friendly member of our team.

    Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Our probate attorneys provide legal advice to our clients after talking about the specific circumstances of the client’s situation. Our law firm cannot give you legal advice unless we understand your situation by talking with you. Please contact our law office to receive specific information about your situation.

    About the author

    Erik J. Broel
    Founder & ceo

    Erik founded the firm in 2009. He sees it as his personal mission to demystify the process of handling an estate or trust, and to help people by making the complex estate process simple and accessible. He believes there is always a better way to do things, and loves finding new and innovative ways to deliver better, more effective service that solves the client’s key problem or issue, and improves the client’s life.

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