Your Guide to Disputing a Will: How to Contest Probate in GA

 

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Contest Probate in GA

Understanding how to contest probate in GA can be tricky, but there are a number of grounds upon which you can do it.

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 August 06, 2020.

Among the various activities carried out by the Cherokee County Probate Court of Georgia, dealing with the estate issues of the deceased are among the primary ones. Many of these include paying the financial obligations and estate tax, as well as distributing the monetary resources and property to the beneficiaries of the deceased.

When a Georgia citizen, or even a non-resident who owns property in the state, passes away, a number of processes may take place in the Cherokee County Probate Court. Since each state and even individual counties within a state has its own set of regulations, it can make probate court a very complex situation to navigate. Having the assistance of a qualified attorney like those from Faulkner Law is invaluable.

Cherokee County Probate Court GA

An estate law attorney, such as Stan Faulkner from Faulkner Law who is certified in Cherokee County Probate Court GA will have the ability to help you determine the best course of action for your situation.

How to Contest Probate in GA

Probate describes the legal process in the state of Georgia by which a deceased individual’s estate is administered, usually in accordance with their will. This process allows a personal representative, also known as the executor, to perform the essential administrative duties of tying up a loved one’s estate by paying taxes, informing lenders, and dispersing assets to beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, this process doesn’t always go as smoothly as families would like. When this happens, knowing how to contest probate in GA is essential. When you schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning attorney at Faulkner Law, we will help you find a resolution to your will & probate issues, even if this includes litigation.

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Expert Counsel for Canton GA Courthouse

How Do I Dispute a Probate Case?

Also known as a “will objection” or a “will dispute”, a contest of a probate case occurs when a family member disagrees with the way their deceased loved one’s assets are set to be distributed. This can happen before or after probate is completed.
 
To be able to object to a deceased relative’s Last Will and Testament in Georgia before probate, a potential heir must have legal “standing” to raise their objections. This typically takes place when, for instance, kids are set to get unequal shares under the will or when distribution plans are modified from a previous will to a later will. In addition to conflicts over the distribution of assets, contests to probate can likewise involve a dispute over the individual chosen to act as executor.
 
If you are the beneficiary or executor of a will that has been contested, or if you want to contest a will, please get in touch with Faulkner Law as soon as possible. Our experienced probate lawyer can guide you through the process.

Contesting a Will After Probate

While contesting a will before probate is usually easier since the assets have not yet been distributed, contesting a will after probate is still possible, albeit difficult.
 
Common legal grounds for a will contest after probate include:

  • Proof of fraud or forgery
  • Lack of proper formalities
  • Lack of testamentary capacity
  • Undue influence
  • Discovery of a more recent will
  • Discovery of paternity/maternity

 
There are a number of challenges to contesting a will after probate. Once the will has entered probate, the executor will start to disperse the assets. At this point, any beneficiaries can invest, sell, or keep their inheritance. When this happens, it can be challenging to get those assets back.
 
Probate laws typically have a statute of limitations, or due date, by which any eligible parties may challenge the will. Contests to a will can likewise extend for numerous years. Additionally, some wills consist of a no-contest clause. If this is the case, you may not be able to contest it in court.
 
As part of the process, you may also need to find witnesses who will testify in your place. In other cases, evidentiary problems might emerge that could hinder your contest in court.

With all these potential challenges to your case, you will want to have a skilled estate planning attorney in Marietta, GA helping you navigate them. When you work with Faulkner Law, we’ll help you prepare for any challenges that come your way and handle them as they emerge.

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Cherokee County Courthouse Lawyer

Georgia Probate Time Limit

If you’d like to contest a will before it is delivered to the court for filing, you can submit a caveat with the court of probate. A caveat is a written document that describes the reasons why you challenge the will. However, you will probably have only a brief amount of time to do so, depending upon when the executor files the will for probate.
 
In all circumstances, you will have ten days to contest the will after you have received notification that it has been filed for probate. At this point, the executor will select a probate method. This method will determine how much time you have left to contest the will if you have not yet done so after the ten-day period is over.
 
If the will’s executor chooses common form probate, you will have four more years to contest it. Under Georgia law, this type of probate does not require notifications to be sent out to any beneficiaries, heirs, or lenders that the will has entered probate. Because of this, a will probated in common form is not finalized until four years after the date it is received by the probate court, and you can object to it at any point throughout that time.
 
If you have submitted a caveat with the court of probate, the will is automatically entered in solemn form probate since its validity is being challenged. If you have not yet filed a caveat and the executor chooses this method, your time to object to the will becomes severely limited.
 
The executor must submit a petition with the court requesting this kind of probate, and notification of that petition is sent out to all potential heirs. A hearing is held where the court decides conclusively on whether the will stands. If you do not appear at this hearing to object to the will and if you do not object to the will while it is in probate, you permanently lose your right to do so after probate has ended.
 
The only exception to challenging a will after solemn form probate is if you were supposed to receive notification of the proceedings and you did not. In this case, you have four years to bring this to the court’s attention as if the will had been probated through common form.
 
Additionally, anybody who wishes to object to a will in common form probate but was not able to due to the fact that they were a minor at the time has four more years to contest the probate after they reach the age of majority. Please contact our law firm if this is the case for you.

How Do You Avoid a Probate Dispute?

Probate court can heighten emotions and even cause a rift in families. While not all contested probate matters can be prevented, establishing a detailed estate plan greatly minimizes the possibility of a probate lawsuit.
 
When you come to Faulkner Law with your estate planning needs, we can help you avoid these issues and see that your desires are carried out as you planned. Depending on your wishes, we can put a provision in the will that disinherits those who unsuccessfully submit a contest. We likewise can document your signing of the will, making it clear that you were of sound mind and understood precisely what you were doing when you signed. And, of course, your will is always properly witnessed and notarized.
 
In some cases, you may even be able to avoid probate altogether, further reducing your risk of a contest. The only way to do this in the state of Georgia is to establish a revocable living trust and fully fund it. To learn more about your options, please contact Faulkner Law to schedule a consultation.
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Trusted Probate Court Lawyer in Cherokee County

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