April 6, 2017
Authored by: Luke Lantta
We like when families can work out their estate disputes outside of the courtroom. Georgia, for one, embraces the “family settlement doctrine,” where heirs at law can agree to distribute or divide property devised under a will, in lieu of that manner provided by the will. So, too, families often want to ‘avoid probate’ and ‘informally’ distribute the estate. As the Georgia Court of Appeals reminded us in Maxey v. Sapp, that’s all well and good until someone doesn’t get what they want or what they thought they were getting.
The Sapps executed a joint will providing that when one of them died the survivor would inherit the other’s property. After the survivor’s death, the remainder of the estate was to be devised and bequeathed to