In Georgia, there are certain protections allocated to surviving spouses and surviving children upon the death of a family member.  It doesn’t matter if the deceased family member had a Will or no Will at the time of her death.  It only matters that the deceased person owned property at the time of her death. The protections available to surviving family members are known as Year’s Support.  By definition, Year’s Support is what its name conjures up.  It is a way to provide financial support and maintenance to a surviving spouse and/or minor children by setting aside specific property from the deceased person’s estate.  The property in its original form or as transformed into cash, is awarded tax-free to the recipient, and provides financial support and maintenance for twelve (12) months from the date of the deceased person’s death.   Both the surviving spouse and any surviving minor children are entitled to such support by virtue of their relationship with the deceased prior to her death.  Georgia law states nothing can prevent the surviving spouse or minor children from receiving Year’s Support unless they elect not to receive it, the surviving spouse remarries or dies and/or the minor children marry or die before they file a petition with the court asking for the support.  More important to note is that all petitions for Year’s Support must be filed within twenty-four (24) months of the deceased person’s death.  Filing your petition beyond the permitted time period runs the risk of you having the petition dismissed because it was not filed in a timely manner.

So what if the adult children object to the award of Year’s Support to PawPaw? Well, the Court will provide them with the opportunity to appear in court and be heard on all relevant issues. The adult children must provide evidence that PawPaw has remarried another woman before he filed his Petition for Year’s Support. If the adult children just happen to lose when objecting to the award of Year’s Support and later appeal the probate court’s decision, PawPaw will still receive any necessaries for daily maintenance from grandma’s estate while the case is pending an appeal. 

            What happens after you file your Petition for Year’s Support?  Do you automatically receive your award for Year’s Support?  No.  Like all legal matters in the United States where the rights of an individual’s person, property, or liberty is concerned, there must be notice given to any businesses or persons who may have an interest or claim in the property.  Those individuals and businesses will then be afforded the opportunity to appear in Court and present evidence along with expressing any concerns they may have regarding the Petition for Year’s Support.  Say for example, Grandma died without a Will and before she died she took out a second mortgage on her vacation home in the North Georgia mountains.   Her surviving spouse now seeks Year’s Support for 12 months and asks the Court to set the vacation home aside for him.  Basically, PawPaw, the surviving spouse, wants to continue to be taken care of in the way he was accustomed to when Grandma was alive.  The Court will then “issue a citation” by sending notice to all persons who may have an interest in Grandma’s property including any adult children and the personal representative (the person responsible for dividing Grandma’s assets).  The Court will also publish a notice in the local newspaper for four weeks so that any of Grandma’s creditors who may have a claim or interest in the property can be notified that the vacation home is about to be awarded as Year’s Support to PawPaw.  All of the “cited” persons and creditors must then appear and show cause or explain why PawPaw should not receive the award for Year’s Support.  If no one appears in court to object to the award of Year’s Support to PawPaw, then PawPaw receives the property subject to the second mortgage Grandma received on the property.  PawPaw can do one of two things. He can sell it to a third party buyer or he can continue to rent it out for a nice profit during peak seasons.  All profits realized from either the sale or the lease will provide PawPaw with the support and maintenance he needs for a 12-month period.  Unfortunately, if any taxes or liens are due on the vacation home PawPaw must pay them all.  If PawPaw would have petitioned the Court to set aside the primary residence as Year’s Support he would owe no taxes on the property since all taxes and liens that accrued prior to Grandma’s death would be removed or divested. 

            So as you can see, Year’s Support serves as an amazing tool that provides support and maintenance to those dealing with the loss of a loved one.  There are many protections afforded to vulnerable populations by the court system for which the general public may be unaware.  Year’s Support proves to be a wonderful comfort to those learning to live with grief. Should you or someone you love need legal representation for a probate case, contact THE BARNETTE LAW FIRM, LLC at 470-222-3209.

**This blog is dedicated to the family of Breonna Taylor.  May your souls be healed as you learn how to cope with a broken heart and the meandering wheels of justice. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.