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How are monies awarded from a civil case distributed amongst an esate in GA?

Atlanta, GA |

My father was killed by a drunk driver last year. He left no will and really had no assets. We are however suing the drunk driver for wrongful death as well as the insurance company. As of this week, an agreement was finally reached with the insurance. I don't know the exact number yet or how the money will be distributed amonst the living heirs. My father had remarried and left a widow, 3 sons from his first marriage and another son from his second marriage. How would this money be distributed amongst these people?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Best answer

    O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1 is the section title "Determining heirs of decedent who died without will." That section states in part the following which is responsive to your question:

    (c) Except as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section, when a decedent died without a will, the following rules shall determine such decedent's heirs:

    (1) Upon the death of an individual who is survived by a spouse but not by any child or other descendant, the spouse is the sole heir. If the decedent is also survived by any child or other descendant, the spouse shall share equally with the children, with the descendants of any deceased child taking that child's share, per stirpes; provided, however, that the spouse's portion shall not be less than a one-third share;

    (2) If the decedent is not survived by a spouse, the heirs shall be those relatives, as provided in this Code section, who are in the nearest degree to the decedent in which there is any survivor;

    (3) Children of the decedent are in the first degree, and those who survive the decedent shall share the estate equally, with the descendants of any deceased child taking, per stirpes, the share that child would have taken if in life;

    (4) Parents of the decedent are in the second degree, and those who survive the decedent shall share the estate equally;

    (5) Siblings of the decedent are in the third degree, and those who survive the decedent shall share the estate equally, with the descendants of any deceased sibling taking, per stirpes, the share that sibling would have taken if in life; provided, however, that, subject to the provisions of paragraph (1) of subsection (f) of > Code Section 53-1-20, if no sibling survives the decedent, the nieces and nephews who survive the decedent shall take the estate in equal shares, with the descendants of any deceased niece or nephew taking, per stirpes, the share that niece or nephew would have taken if in life;

    (6) Grandparents of the decedent are in the fourth degree, and those who survive the decedent shall share the estate equally;

    (7) Uncles and aunts of the decedent are in the fifth degree, and those who survive the decedent shall share the estate equally, with the children of any deceased uncle or aunt taking, per stirpes, the share that uncle or aunt would have taken if in life; provided, however, that, subject to the provisions of paragraph (1) of subsection (f) of > Code Section 53-1-20, if no uncle or aunt of the decedent survives the decedent, the first cousins who survive the decedent shall share the estate equally; and

    (8) The more remote degrees of kinship shall be determined by counting the number of steps in the chain from the relative to the closest common ancestor of the relative and decedent and the number of steps in the chain from the common ancestor to the decedent. The sum of the steps in the two chains shall be the degree of kinship, and the surviving relatives with the lowest sum shall be in the nearest degree and shall share the estate equally.

    You mentioned that a pending suit exists and therefore I am assuming that you have a lawyer. Your lawyer should work diligently to assure that the proper parties receive their portion of the settlement even if your lawyer does not represent all parties.


  2. Distribtutions to heirs of the deceased are governed primarily by state law. The attorney that is handling the wrongful death suit should be able to explain the specifics as provided by Georgia law (and that is assuming that Georgia law would be applicable which may or may not be the case). If you do not already have an attorney, please contact one as soon as possible and before you sign any documents agreeing to the settlement of the wrongful death lawsuit.


  3. This is a complex question.

    Short answer - With this many children, 33.3% to the widow and 66.6% split equally among the children.

    Long answer - There are two different claims (1) the survivor's claim for the economic and non-economic value of your father's life and (2) the estate's claim for medical bills and pain and suffering. Depending on how much of the recovery is directed to estate's claim this may effect the distribution a bit. The widow takes slightly less under the estate statute. However, proceeds of the settlement that are run through the estate can be used to pay for estate expenses such funeral costs, etc.

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