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Surviving spouses rights and wrongful death in Georgia

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | Wrongful Death

In Georgia, surviving spouse’s rights in wrongful death is governed by Georgia Code, Section 51-4-2. Subsection (a) states that surviving spouses may recover for the homicide of a spouse the full value of the life of the decedent, according to the evidence. Section 51-4-1 defines homicide as death attributable to criminal activity, negligence, or defective property, regardless of negligence. The full value of the life is defined as the full value of the decedent’s life, without deductions for personal or necessary expenses, had they lived.

Surviving spouse and wrongful death

If there’s no surviving spouse, the children may recover the full value of the life of the parent. If the children bring the wrongful death action, and one of the children dies while the claim is pending, the action survives to the remaining children. If there’s no surviving spouse and the children are minors, a guardian may qualify as a conservator to receive the settlement, hold it and use it for the benefit of the minors.

Surviving spouse laws in Georgia

Under Subsection (c), the surviving spouse has the right to release the defendant without a court order, as long as they remain accountable for the same amount. Subsection (d) mandates that the value of the full life of the decedent is to be divided equally among the surviving spouse and the children. The spouse receives no less than one-third as their share. If there’s no surviving spouse in the wrongful death action, the shares are divided equally among the children.

None of the recovery afforded under Section 51-4-2 is subject to any debt or liability associated with the decedent or their estate. Children born out of wedlock are not to be excluded from their recovery outline in Section 51-4-2. In 2022, the state law was amended to include conservators, guardians, next friend or other authorized adults under potential guardians of the surviving children.