Many states have laws that provide for the payment of a deceased employee's wages to a named beneficiary, or if a beneficiary is not named, to the employee's spouse or minor children. In Georgia, state law allows all employers to pay any wages or other money due to a deceased employee up to a maximum of $2,500 to:
• A beneficiary designated in writing or the beneficiary's guardian
• If no beneficiary has been designated, the employee's surviving spouse
• In the absence of a surviving spouse, the guardian of the employee's minor children
If the deceased employee's wages are owed by the state, the $2,500 payment cap does not apply, and the state may pay all accrued but unpaid wages and other money due.
Up to $2,500 of accrued wages and money due a deceased employee is exempt from garnishment. Payment of wages acts as a release from all claims against the employer for the amount paid (GA Code Sec. 34-7-4).
The employer should have on file, at all times, the name and current address of the employee's spouse or, if there is no spouse, the names and addresses of each minor child. If an employee chooses to designate a beneficiary, the written designation must be signed by the employee and must include the beneficiary's name and address.
The employer must inform the employee of the provisions of the law and request that the information be kept current. However, the employer will not be subject to a penalty for failure to comply.