Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Georgia

If me and my dad start a company together and my name is not on ownership of company but on all the bank accounts with him as a trusty. And he dies with no written will and theres four children but I'm the one working beside my father from day one. Does the company still get stilt four way

Asked on 9/06/13, 11:25 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Robert Gardner Hicks, Massey & Gardner, LLP

As the company would be considered his asset if the legal ownership was in his name, then the company ownership becomes part of the estate. However, does the company have any real value, such as assets, equipment, etc. If the company is only worth something if someone is doing work, you could either prove this to your siblings and have them transfer full ownership to you, or start your own company. If there were assets of the company, you may be able to work something out with them to buy out their interest.

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 [email protected], or through our website:

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Answered on 9/06/13, 12:54 pm
Glen Ashman Ashman Law Office also dba Glen Ashman Attorney

The answer depends in part on how the company is set up. His interest would be, after debts are paid, divided between four heirs. That won't happen until a probate is filed.

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Answered on 9/06/13, 4:25 pm
Erik Broel Broel Law Group, LLC

It sounds like you are in a tough situation. I'm sorry to hear about your father's passing and the dificulty you now face. The question you are asking is very complicated to answer, and I will do my best to give you an overview that I hope will be helpful.

Under Georgia probate law, when the owner of a business dies, the owner's ownership interest in the business becomes a part of the owner's estate. This is true regardless of whether the company was structured as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). The one main exception to this rule is that if there was more than one owner and the owners had a buy/sell agreement, then the interest that the deceased had in the business may not go into the estate depending on how the buy/sell is set up.

Once the ownership interest in the business becomes a part of the deceased's estate, that interest will be dealt with in the same manner as any other property. So, if there is a will, then the will determines what happens. If there is no will, then Georgia probate law will determine how the property is split up. In this case, since there is no will, your father's ownership interest in the business will be split up among the heirs.

One interesting twist to this situation is that you may actually have some ownership interest in the business. Whether you do or not involves looking to the specific circumstances surrounding the creation of the business, your and your father's actions during the life of the business, and the corporate documents (if any) governing the business. For example, when the business was started, if you provided funding, materials, initial inventory, or equipment, then you may have a claim as an owner. In addition, if you and your father voted on actions, if you received profits from the business, or otherwise were treated like an owner, then you may have some ownership interest. Whether you have any ownership and how much you have requires an analysis of the above factors along with others. Many small business owners do not set up the corporate documents the right way, and that can cause a lot of heartache in situation such as this. The good news is that the corporate documents are not always the end of the question.

If it turns out that you do have some ownership in the company, then the part you own would not be a part of your father's estate - only the part he owns would go through probate.

As I mentioned, this is a very complex situation and I would encourage you to seek the assistance of a good probate attorney familiar with these matters to help you. The things I mentioned above are some, but not all, of the factors that go into this type of analysis.

If you are interested in talking about the details of this with me more, please visit my firm's website at so we can schedule a time to talk. Either way, I wish you the best of luck.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not providing you with legal advice, but am simply providing general information. We do not have an attorney / client relationship simply by virtue of my responding to this question. An attorney / client relationship will only arise when you and I enter into a written engagement agreement. less

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Answered on 9/08/13, 2:33 pm

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