Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Georgia

If an individual owns a house and property, then passes away and leaves no will but the offspring continue paying the property taxes can anything happen to that property?

Asked on 8/10/13, 8:37 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

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Like what? Lots of things can happen depending on the exact facts.

If there are sufficient probate assets and debts, then an estate should still be administered. Depending on how many offspring there are, having more than 2 people own land is a recipe for disaster unless all offspring can agree at all times on everything (very unlikely). The offspring who want the land and who will be paying taxes on the land should work out a deal whereby they will buy the shares of those offspring who want nothing to do with the land.

You do not indicate what other assets there are that would be subject to probate or what other debts there are. The heirs cannot keep land and not pay bills of the estate.

If there is no will then all of the offspring could be a personal representative. They should have a family meeting and decide which of them will be best suited to the job. Ideally, it should be someone who lives in the same county/state where the estate will be probated or whoever lives the closest as there will be some need to travel to the court for things. It should also be someone who is the most detail-oriented and has good financial and common sense and who is good with handling money. Finally, it should be someone who will be fair to all of the heirs. If all of the heirs cannot agree, then I suggest that all of the heirs pick one probate attorney who practices in the county/state where the estate will be probated and let the attorney both be the administrator of the state and its legal counsel to the extent any legal counsel is required.

Administering an estate can be a big job depending on what needs done and what is owned by the parent. The personal representative is entitled to be paid for this work but this comes out of the estate funds before the heirs get anything.

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8/10/13, 12:50 pm
Robert Gardner Hicks, Massey & Gardner, LLP
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If there is a mortgage, then that needs to continue to be made in order to avoid a foreclosure. As to the taxes, so long as they are being paid the county will not take the property from a tax sale. However, something eventually needs to be done to have an administrator of the estate appointed so that the property can be transferred to the heirs of the owner or to a person wanting to buy the house. If you wait too long (and I have seen many cases where nothing is done for decades) any attempt to transfer the property will be more difficult, as heirs may die and you may have to track down the rightful owners. I recently handled a case where the person passed away in the 70's, and we had to track down 42 people to give notice as heirs of the estate before we could sell the property. Once an administrator transfers the property to the heirs, they can decide among them what they want to do in the future.

The answer to this questions is informational only, and it is not intended to be legal advise. Only an attorney who has met with you and gone over all of the specific facts of your case can give you legal advice upon which you should rely. Follow up questions are welcome via the email below, and our firm offers free consultations via phone or in person. We have convenient offices in Winder, Jefferson, and Gainesville Georgia, and you should feel free to contact our office at (770) 307-4899, via email at hmgrmg@yahoo.com, or through our website: hicksmasseyandgardner.com.

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8/13/13, 10:07 am

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