In Georgia, most estate attorneys recommend use of a will rather than a living trust. Probate in this state is a simple affair, if the will is properly drafted, and living trusts are expensive to manage and administer during life.
The situation may differ when the testator knows she has 79 heirs.
In a recent case, we were called upon to probate a simple will, leaving an entire estate to the decedent's god-daughter. The problem? The deceased was one of twelve siblings, all of whom predeceased her. Not only this, but the decedent died at age 101, meaning that most of her siblings' children have already died.
The result has been that the decedent has 79 heirs at law. Why does this matter, given that there is only one beneficiary of the will? It matters because the Georgia Code requires service of the petition to probate upon all heirs at law, even if those heirs are not beneficiaries. And by "service," we typically mean a sheriff's deputy delivering the petition to the heirs' doorstep - although out-of-state heirs need only get certified mailings.
Living trusts are better estate planning devices in such cases. When the maker of a living trust dies, and the trust becomes irrevocable, the Georgia Code requires notice only to the beneficiaries of that trust, not to the heirs of the trust-maker (the "settlor"). OCGA § 53-12-242.
Tracking down 79 heirs is a daunting and expensive challenge. In our firm's present case, paying a little more to draft a living trust would have meant great savings for the decedent's heirs.
Tanner Pittman, LLC is a West Georgia law firm that specializes in estate services, civil litigation, and legal transactions.
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