Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Georgia

I am the child of a mother who died 14 yrs ago. My mother was the daughter of my Grandmother, who passed away 2 years ago, but was survived by her husband who recently passed this year. My Grandmother's husband left a will, but this will did not include me or any of my siblings; only his children, my Uncles and Aunts. As far as I was concerned, my Grandmother's husband was my Grandfather and I was treated as such. There is no legal documentation, as far as I know, to reflect that my 'grandfather' ever legally adopted my Mom, however . My Uncles and Aunts are on very good terms and I expect that they will provide us with some type of distribution, but have not heard from them regarding this. Do my siblings and I have any legal rights to assets of the Will?

Asked on 8/07/13, 8:15 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Grandfather did not have to leave you or any of your siblings anything. Based on what you post the distribution sounds like it would go as follows:

Since mother died before grandmother, you would have to see if grandmother had a will at the time of her (grandmother's death). Grandmother's probate assets would pass as per grandmother's will if any. Because your mother died before grandmother, to the extent that your mother was a beneficiary under grandmother's will, then you and any children of your mother could inherit your mother's share.

If grandmother had no will, then the disposition of her probate assets is governed by the state intestacy laws for the state where grandmother lived at the time of her death. I will assume this is in GA for the purpose of this post. You do not indicate how many children grandmother had besides your mother. Grandmother's assets would go to grandmother's husband and all of grandmother's children. If any children of grandmother are deceased then you or any grandchildren would inherit the share of their deceased parent. If there is one child and a spouse, the division is roughly 50-50; if more than 2 children and a spouse the spouse gets 1/3rd and the children split the remaining 2/3rd.

However, this only deals with probate assets. Not all assets are probate assets. Examples of non-probate assets are jointly owned land with right of survivorship, life insurance or other beneficiary designated asset and a joint bank account.

Since you indicate grandmother was married, then when she died her assets would pass as outlined. I don't know what grandmother owned or how it was titled but to the extent her husband got it all, then his assets would be divided as per his will.

Did he specifically disinherit your mother/you in his will or did he just make no mention of your mother/you? I hate to ask this but was your mother legitimate? In other words, was she born while your grandmother was married? The rule in GA is that illegitimate children can only inherit from their mother. In order to inherit from the biological father then the children have to be legitimated or bring a paternity action. If the husband was NOT the biological parent of your mother then you have no right to inherit any of this assets unless the man formally adopted your mother. In that case, your mother would be treated as if she had been the biological child of your grandmother's husband.

The only exception to this rule is a concept called .equitable adoption. GA appears to recognize this. Equitable adoption generally exists where there was an intent to formally adopt but for one reason or another the paperwork did not get done. However, this rule does not apply where there is a will usually.

If an argument could be made that this man did equitably adopt your mother and just forgot to mention her in the will maybe you could inherit. If she and her descendants were specifically disinherited, then the answer clearly is no.

Read more
Answered on 8/07/13, 7:49 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Probate, Trusts, Wills & Estates questions and answers in Georgia