Everything You Need to Know About the Georgia Probate Process

 

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What Is Georgia Probate?

Georgia probate is a legal process by which a legally-designated person gathers and distributes a deceased person’s assets. Learn more here.

Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Faulkner Law, LLC

Mr. Faulkner is an experienced counselor and litigator with 15 years of experience, having held bar licenses in four states (Mo, Il, Ct and Ga). Stan Faulkner uses this experience and focuses his skills in the pursuit of assisting individuals in probate (trust and estate) matters, guardianships and conservatorships, estate planning, business disputes and contract disputes. Published on February 27, 2021.

When someone dies, it’s often required for the individual’s estate to be administered. That legal process is called probate. This process gives a personal representative, who is also called an executor, the authority to perform specific administrative duties, such as gathering the deceased’s assets, paying debts and taxes, as well as distributing assets to beneficiaries. 

However, sometimes the probate process can be complicated. For example, if the family challenges the validity of the will in court, the whole process will not go as smoothly as usual. In that case, having an experienced estate attorney who knows how to deal with these legal matters is crucial. The trusted estate planning law firm of Faulkner Law can help you find a resolution to your probate issues. 

Faulkner Law serves all of Atlanta, GA, including Fulton County, Cobb County, Gwinnett County, Dekalb County, and Forsyth County.

Is Georgia Probate Process Necessary?

Not all estates have to go through probate. Some assets like a home with a joint tenancy are automatically passed to the appropriate heir or surviving owner. Other assets that don’t require going through probate are usually ones where the beneficiary has been named outside of the will or assets payable to the named beneficiary, such as:

  • Retirement accounts.
  • Bank accounts payable-on-death.
  • Pension benefits or life-insurance proceeds.
  • Assets in a revocable living trust.

But, if the deceased person owned property or assets in his or her name alone, probate court proceedings are necessary. 

What Is the Executor of the Estate?

First of all, it is important that the will is filed with the probate court located in the county where the deceased person had lived before death. If the deceased had appointed an executor or a personal representative in the will, he or she would have to file a petition to probate a will and publish a notice in the local newspaper. The goal of the notice is to let creditors know if they want to file a claim. 

After the petition has been filed, all heirs will be served with a copy of the petition and the will. If heirs don’t have objections, the executor will take an oath in order to promise to work in the best interest of the estate. He or she will probably be required to post a bond with the court, which will serve as a type of insurance. In addition, the executor also has to file federal income tax returns as well as final state tax. 

 

Who Can Be an Administrator of the Estate?

If the executor is not able or willing to serve, the probate court will appoint an administrator of the estate, whose duties are the same. The surviving spouse has a priority to be appointed as the administrator of the estate. 

The probate court manages the appointment and removal of executors as well as administrators. If the executor is appointed in the will, the court will issue Letters Testamentary, and if the court appoints an administrator, it will issue a document called Letters of Administration.

The issuance of this document allows the personal representative to collect the deceased person’s assets, have them appraised, as well as sell property or assets if there isn’t enough money in the estate. If selling a property or real estate is necessary, the court’s approval will probably be required.

The executor of an estate has many tasks and duties, and most of them involve taking charge of settling an estate and carrying out the wishes outlined in the Last Will & Testament. Having the assistance of a qualified attorney who specializes in probate matters like Stan Faulkner is invaluable when going through this situation. 

Is Georgia Probate Process Necessary

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How to Avoid Probate in Georgia

In some cases, heirs can ask the local probate court to state that no probate is required. The court will grant that request if there is no will, if all heirs agree on how to divide the property, and if there are no debts. 

 

Distributing Assets According to Georgia Law

A Personal Representative usually has the authority over any property and assets that go through probates, such as personal belongings, vehicles, real estate, and bank accounts. These individuals must keep detailed records of how assets are handled because the probate court may ask for reports. 

Typically, a bank account for the estate will be opened to consolidate the existing money and the money that comes into the estate, such as refunds and compensations. 

After every debt and taxes are paid, an executor can distribute assets to beneficiaries. This person also has to prepare an accounting that shows who will get what before distributing the assets. Usually, this is done by following the instructions stated in the will. However, if the deceased left no will, Georgia law determines who inherits. The closest relatives are first in line to inherit the deceased person’s assets. 

If the executor’s commission is not mentioned in the wIll, according to GA estate law, he or she is entitled to a 2.5% commission of all money brought into the estate as well as 2.5% of all money distributed out of an estate. In addition, the administrator may be entitled to an added compensation of the value of non-monetary assets, including bonds, stocks, and real estate that are being distributed to beneficiaries. 

Georgia Uniform Probate Court Rules

The Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia provided a set of complicated probate court rules outlined in the Uniform Probate Court Rules

For example, one of the main courts’ rules is that a personal representative of the estate or an executor must work with the court. If an executor is not appointed in the will, or if he or she can’t fulfill their duty, the probate court may step in and appoint one.  

Also, one of two forms, Solemn form or Common form probate, has to be chosen. The Solemn form is binding as soon as the property is closed, and it requires that the executor notifies everyone who may have an interest in the will. On the other hand, the Common form becomes binding in about four years which gives a chance for contesting the probate. Additionally, this form of probate doesn’t require sending a notice to potential beneficiaries. 

Georgia Uniform Probate Court Rules

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Georgia Probate Forms

There are also certain guidelines and rules for filling out Georgia probate forms. If you are not sure which forms are necessary, you can obtain a piece of legal advice if you schedule a free consultation with an estate attorney at Faulkner Law Offices. 

But, if you decide to go through this process alone, you will be responsible for getting the right information and making important decisions. That includes knowing which forms you need for your case, completing them correctly, handling court fees as well as understanding what could go wrong and the outcomes of your decisions. 

Probate court is not an arena where you can show off your abilities. With a number of potential complications and challenges, you need to have a skilled estate planning attorney in Marietta, GA, who can help you navigate them. When you work with Faulkner Law, we’ll help you prepare for any challenges that come your way and handle them every time. 

Georgia Probate Laws: What Can You Do If There’s Not Enough Money?

If there isn’t enough money to pay all the estate’s bills, an executor has to prioritize claims as stated in state laws. The family of the deceased has to be paid first. Children who are younger than 18, along with the surviving spouse, are entitled to a year’s support. Funeral expenses, probate costs, expenses of the deceased’s last illness, and taxes are next in the exact same order. 

When the executor pays everything he or she is supposed to and distributes all assets, a Petition for Discharge has to be filed with the court. That way, the executor is asking to be relieved of their duties. When the court determines everything is in order, the discharge will be granted, and the estate closed. 

 

We Can Help You Understand the Georgia Probate Code

The administration of an estate, handling wills, and dealing with the probate court may end up being more complex than you think. That’s why it is important to hire someone who is available to answer your questions and offer useful information and legal advice. 

A lawyer who specializes in these areas of the law like Stan Faulkner of Faulkner Law will be the best choice. Stan Faulkner is tireless in serving the needs of his clients. Contact us today and schedule a free case consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Georgia Probate Laws What Can You Do If Theres Not Enough Money

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