Distributing the Estate to Heirs or Beneficiaries

After the personal representative has settled and paid all claims, expenses and taxes of the estate, the remaining assets may be distributed to heirs or beneficiaries. Normally, a final accounting is presented to the heirs or beneficiaries for approval prior to distribution. The personal representative must distribute estate assets, including any specific bequests of property, as directed in a will. With many different ways that a will can specify distribution of property, one should consult the estate’s attorney to ensure that distribution is being performed as required by the terms of the will. If there is no will, estate assets must be distributed to the heirs as required by the laws of intestacy in the State of Georgia. Heirs are the closest relatives of the decedent, including the decedent’s spouse, if living, and the decendent’s children, including adopted children and children born out of wedlock. Stepchildren are not heirs. If the decedent is survived by a spouse and children (or descendants of a child), then the spouse shares equally with the children; however, the spouse is always entitled to at least one-third of the estate. If any property is to be distributed to a minor, then the personal representative may be required to pay the funds to an appointed conservator for the minor, or to the probate court for deposit into a custodial account for the minor.