Georgia Estate Law


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Georgia Estate Law

Georgia Estate Law governs issues of inheritance and how estates are settled after someone’s death, but there’s a lot more to it. Get the facts from attorney Stan Faulkner, an estate planning expert in Marietta, GA.

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Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Perigon Legal Services, 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 July 17, 2020. Updated on April 23, 2024.

An estate may seem like a simple, straight-forward concept. However, Georgia estate law is a bit more complicated than it may initially appear. The collection of what a person owns in property and assets and their money is considered their estate. A person can have a probate estate or a trust estate.

A probate estate involves assets under a will and testament. Assets may also be passed by intestate succession if there is no will. With a probate estate, assets must go through a court process to be transferred to the next generation. At Perigon Legal Services, Georgia estate and probate law is our forte, and we can help with all stages of the probate and estate court processes.

In a trust estate, all assets are in a trust that will be passed down to the beneficiaries.

The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, applies a different meaning to “estate.” They will want to know the decedent’s “gross estate” if it is subject to an estate tax. They will also want to know the value of all property owned whether they are in a trust or a will. The IRS will look at all assets to determine the estate tax.

GA Estate Law

If you must go to probate court in GA over an estate, you should keep in mind that can be a long and complicated process. Probate is a court-supervised legal process that is sometimes required after a family member dies. Probate gives someone, usually the living spouse or close family member, the authority to gather assets, pay debts and taxes, and eventually transfer assets to those that inherit them. Probate in Georgia is typically conducted in about eight months to a year unless there is the rare case of a court dispute over the will, unusual assets, or claims that complicate matters.

Probate court in Georgia is not always necessary, though. Usually, Georgia probate courts, including the Cobb County Probate Court, are required only if the deceased person owned assets in their name alone.

In other cases, assets can likely be transferred to new owners without Georgia probate. Examples of assets that do not need to go through probate are assets the deceased owned in joint tenancy, or ownership of a house by a married couple, which pass automatically to the surviving owner, assets for which a beneficiary has been named outside the will like retirement accounts, and life insurance proceeds or pensions. Additionally, you may be able to avoid probate if you have assets that are held in a revocable living trust. However, it’s always best to consult a trusted estate planning attorney Marietta GA to determine whether probate court Georgia is necessary.

Georgia Estate Laws

In certain circumstances, an heir can ask the GA probate court for a letter stating that no probate is necessary under estate laws in Georgia. The court is likely to grant this request if:

  • The deceased did not leave a will
  • All heirs agree on how to distribute assets
  • There are no debts or creditors do not object to lack of probate

If the deceased named you as the executor of their will, you are called a personal representative, or PR, in the state of Georgia. It is up to you to take charge of settling the estate, but an attorney can help you with this process. If probate is necessary, you will go to court and ask to be formally appointed as a PR.

Georgia Estate Laws

Expert Counsel for Estate Law Georgia

Responsibilities of the Personal Representative

The personal representative must keep careful probate records on how the estate is distributed as they may have to submit receipts, bills, and bank statements to the court. The court may require reports on the following:

  • A detailed inventory of assets that shows their estimated market value
  • An annual return showing what the estate received and spent

With the help of a Georgia probate lawyer, these reports must be sent to all heirs and beneficiaries. A return will not be required if all beneficiaries agree that it is not needed or required.

Typically, the PR will open a bank account for the estate and consolidate existing cash accounts in the estate account. Amounts that come into the account are deposited into the account and its funds are used to pay estate expenses. The PR has authority over any assets that go through probate like vehicles, life insurance, real estate, bank accounts, and personal belongings like jewelry and artwork.

Georgia Estate Recovery Law

A federally mandated program, estate recovery is where each state is reimbursed out of the Medicaid-receiving deceased person’s estate for long-term care like nursing home care or community services provided by Medicaid. Since Medicaid is a joint federal and state program, federal legislation required the state of Georgia to enact a Georgia law on estate recovery if it wished to receive federal funds.

By accepting Medicaid services, a debt is created that must be paid for through the beneficiary’s estate. Funds are recovered through the beneficiary’s estate after death for the cost of services provided throughout their lifetime. This can be a confusing process, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our firm if you need assistance with estate recovery in Georgia.

Georgia Estate Recovery Law

Georgia Estate Lawyer

Georgia Estate Tax Law

Within sixty days of starting to serve as a personal representative, the PR must publish a notice of the probate proceeding in the local newspaper, which lets creditors know they have three months to come forward if they want to present a formal claim to the estate. Most creditors do not make formal claims but rather send regular bills to the deceased’s address.

If there is not enough money in the estate to pay all debts, the PR must follow state probate laws and prioritize claims. The family – the surviving spouse and children under eighteen years of age – are paid first and entitled to a full year’s support. After that, funeral expenses, cost of probate (i.e. court filing fees, lawyers’ fees, etc.), expenses of the last illness (hospital bills), and taxes may be paid. More expenses will follow, so you will need to consult the Georgia probate law if the estate cannot pay all the bills. If this is your situation, you should contact the skilled attorneys at Perigon Legal Services for legal advice before you start writing checks.

It is also the personal representative’s job to file federal and state income taxes for the decedent. These returns are generally due by April 15th of the year following the death. Income tax returns may also be required for the estate if it receives income.

A federal estate tax return will only be required if the taxable estate is very large – more than $11.58 million. Less than one percent of estates in Georgia are expected to pay federal estate tax under the current Georgia Estate Tax Law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Estate Law in Georgia

What Is the First Step in Handling an Estate in Georgia?

The initial task involves publishing a notice of the probate proceedings in a local newspaper within sixty days of a personal representative’s appointment. This publication alerts creditors that they have a three-month window to present formal claims against the estate.


How Are Debts Prioritized if the Estate’s Assets Are Insufficient?

Georgia probate laws mandate a specific order for settling debts. Family members, including the surviving spouse and minor children, receive priority with entitlement to a full year’s support. Subsequently, funds cover funeral expenses, probate costs, medical bills of the last illness, and taxes.


Is a Federal Estate Tax Return Always Necessary?

A federal estate tax return is required only if the estate exceeds a substantial threshold—currently set at $11.58 million. This condition affects less than one percent of estates in Georgia under the prevailing tax laws.

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