Everything You Need to Know About Georgia Probate Laws

 

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What Is Georgia Probate Law?

Do you need to learn Georgia probate laws? Contact Perigon Legal Services. We can explain everything you need to know about Georgia probate laws. Call us now.

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 June 15, 2023.

If you have recently lost a friend or loved one, you may ask the following questions: What is probate? and How does it work? Probate is a process by which a judge establishes the validity of a will.

The Georgia probate court is responsible for authenticating a will. The executor then uses the deceased person’s assets to settle their creditors. The remaining assets are distributed among the beneficiaries.

The probate legal process is not simple or fast. It is complex, and there are various probate forms you will deal with. It is a complicated process to navigate on your own.

Read on to discover what happens when a decedent dies without a will. Then, you might see how retaining attorneys can assist you with probate issues.

 

Laws that Govern the Georgia Probate Court

Various probate laws govern the Georgia probate courts. Probate laws are found in the Georgia Code Title 53-Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates § 53-2-1.

An estate will still go through probate even when the deceased does not leave a will. Georgia probate law gives a probate judge the authority to appoint an executor in such a case. The judge should also appoint a guardian ad litem for beneficiaries who are minors.

Under Georgia law, the surviving spouse is the first to inherit. They cannot be disinherited. Additionally, half-siblings who are the decedent’s children are equal in inheritance. The decedent’s children born after the death but conceived prior are also entitled to inheritance.

The surviving spouse or children of the dependent should receive Year’s support. As the probate case continues, that is a part of the estate put aside to support the family left behind.

Requirements of a Valid Will

A valid will must be signed appropriately. At times a will can contain a document called a self-serving affidavit. That is a document signed by the will’s maker and their witnesses to solidify the validity of a will.

Here are other conditions that judges use to determine the validity of a will:

  • The will was written by someone of sound mind.

  • The will was written by someone 14 years or older.

  • Two witnesses signed the will.

However, this does not mean the beneficiaries cannot dispute it. That is why working with an estate planning attorney is vital when drafting your will. They can also help your heirs in case they have questions.

 

Why Would a Will Be Invalid?

Failing to have one of the requirements can make the will invalid. A few other considerations could cause the judge to invalidate a will. Common reasons why a will can become invalid in Georgia include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The will maker wrote a second will, which revokes the first.

  • The will was not signed correctly.

  • The will maker signed it under duress.

Other issues can also render a will invalid. For example, beneficiaries should not act as witnesses. That could result in receiving nothing. But if there is proof that they did not influence the writing of the will, they should receive their share. 

Settling the Estate

Before distributing a decedent’s assets, all outstanding debts should be paid. If you are the will executor, your first order of business is to ensure that all creditors are settled. You can then distribute the remaining estate funds to the heirs.

Properties under a joint tenancy will automatically belong to the surviving party. Additionally, assets held under a trust will go to the trustee named by the decedent. Properties and investments that are transferable on death go to the named beneficiaries.

In some cases, the estate executor could be acting illegally. They could attempt to serve their own interests. If that happens, the creditors or beneficiaries can sue them. The executor should wait for the final ruling. Then, if there are no legal issues, they can distribute the assets among the heirs.

 

Can You Avoid Probate?

Yes, you can spare your children or spouse the stress of dealing with probate courts. You should plan your estate while you are alive to avoid probate. You can still access your bank account, assets, and other properties. You have options.

Although you must probate a will, non-probate assets do not go through the probate process. Here are examples of non-probate assets:

  • Properties held in a trust
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance and brokerage accounts that have a named beneficiary

Probate assets are those that list the decedent as the sole owner, such as real estate or bank accounts. All probate assets must go through the probate process before the transfer of ownership from the decedent to the beneficiaries.

Why Do You Need an Attorney for Probate Issues?

You need to file many forms for a probate petition in Georgia. Another vital thing to note is that there are two types of probate in Georgia: solemn and common.

A Will is probated in the solemn form if the heirs are likely to contest the Will. They are all notified when the probate proceedings start. A common probate is for cases where heirs are less likely to contest the Will.

Some common forms you could need are:

  • Solemn form probate
  • Common form probate
  • Petition for letters of administration
  • Petition for permanent letters of guardianship for a minor

The list goes on, and you could get confused about which form to fill out. You may also need help understanding the unique circumstances or laws that apply to every probate form.

Probate laws are complex. Here is how settling an estate works. It can get complicated, but you do not have to do it alone. A trusted last will and testament lawyer will guide you from the first to the last stage of Georgia probate. They will also ensure you do not miss any deadlines or documents so your case does not last long.

Understanding the proper estate planning tactics can save your estate from going through probate. Contrary to what people assume, estate planning should not occur in old age. Life is unpredictable. So, talk to a probate attorney about estate planning and how to avoid probate.

Contact Perigon Legal Services for Guidance on Probate Issues

There are many probate laws, and you likely need help remembering them all. Additionally, some rules and schedules are only for probate court proceedings. It could be a smart move to work with a Georgia probate attorney.

An attorney will use their understanding of federal and state laws to help you in your case. If the heirs do not agree about the will or the appointed executor, your probate case will take longer.

The attorneys at Perigon Legal Services understand how frustrating probate cases can be. We know the value of working with an attorney who understands Georgia probate and estate law.

When you are dealing with probate issues, it may become confusing. If that happens, you need someone to guide you on how to proceed.

Contact Perigon Legal Services today and work with compassionate probate lawyers. We can fill out all the probate forms you need and represent you if needed. We aim to ensure that the probate issue wraps up so you can close that chapter respectfully.

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