A Detailed Guide to the Georgia Probate Process

 

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What Is the Georgia Probate Process?

Looking for help in navigating the Georgia probate process? Perigon Legal Services is ready to help you. Book an appointment with us today.

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 August 22, 2023.

Probate is a court-supervised legal process to manage and distribute the estate assets of a deceased person.

The probate process may be necessary when the decedent individually owns assets but does not leave a will or named beneficiaries. It may also be required in cases where conflicts or claims against an estate arise, even in the presence of a will.

If you expect or are going through Georgia probate, consult Perigon Legal Services for helpOur probate lawyers can help executors and personal representatives perform their duties, such as:

  • Gathering the deceased person’s assets

  • Paying off existing debts and taxes

  • Distributing the remaining assets to all the heirs per the will or Georgia’s inheritance laws

Types of Probate in Georgia

The type of probate you will go through depends primarily on whether your deceased loved one left a will or not.

Georgia Probate When There Is a Will

When a testator dies, the will needs to be filed with the court and then authenticated before adoption. According to Georgia Code section 53-5-3, the will must be filed with the probate court within five years of the administrator’s appointment.

If heirs and creditors agree to distribution plans with the will, an uncontested probate process will initiate only to oversee the executor’s distribution of assets according to the will.

However, if a will beneficiary or creditor wishes to contest the will, the probate process and hearings become necessary to resolve the conflicts.

In the presence of a will, the executor, also known as the personal representative and administrator, can choose one of these two types of probate:

  • Solemn form probate: The solemn form probate requires that all possible heirs, whether named in the will or not, be notified of the will and probate. The will executor can opt for this type because it becomes binding within six months, and no claims can be filed after this period.
  • Common form probate: Most will executors choose common form probate because it does not require notifying the heirs or their attendance in court. However, the court’s decision in this type of probate only becomes binding after four years from the publication of the notice.

Georgia Probate When There Is No Will (Intestate)

When decedents die without a will, they are said to have died intestate, and their assets will pass to heirs following Georgia’s intestacy laws (O.C.G.A. § 53-2-1).

In this case, the court will appoint the executor, usually from the decedent’s closest of kin, and work with them to administer the decedent’s assets. However, it’s up to the deceased person’s heirs to decide the administration type from the following:

  • Permanent administration: The heirs can petition for permanent letters of administration if they want the executor to have full powers to collect and distribute the assets.
  • Temporary administration: The heirs may file Petition for Temporary Letters of Administration (GPCSF 2) if they want the executor to only collect and hold the assets. Distributions will be made with a court order.
  • No administration is required: If the heirs agree on how to distribute the assets of the estate, they may file a Petition for Order Declaring No Administration Necessary (GPCSF 9) with the court.

The Georgia Probate Process

Initiating the probate process depends on whether a will exists.

If there is a will, the executor or the person holding the will must file it with their local probate court. You must file the will even if you don’t intend to go through the probate process.

If there’s no will, an heir must file the Petition for Letters of Administration (GPCSF 3) with the court, requesting it to appoint an executor for the estate.

From this point on, the probate process is generally the same and goes as follows:

1. Petitioning to start the probate process

The executor files a petition and pays court fees to start the probate process. The petitioner must file different forms and documents depending on the circumstances of the case.

2. Collecting all of the estate’s assets

The executor collects and creates an inventory of the deceased’s property and files a report with the court.

3. Paying the deceased debts

The executor or administrator pays the deceased person’s outstanding debt, including creditors and taxes, out of the estate assets. Executors must notify creditors in the local newspaper.

4. Distributing the remaining assets

Upon settling debts, executors distribute anything left to the rightful heirs either according to the will or the state’s intestacy succession laws. When the distribution is complete, an executor must:

  • Provide evidence that beneficiaries received the assets

  • File a final report with the probate court to close the estate

Once the case is concluded, the will and other probate records will become public and can be found in probate courts or accessed online.

Contesting a Will

Georgia law allows an interested party to challenge a will within the allocated time limit. Challengers could be the testator’s family members or creditors. A will can be challenged in a probate court hearing on one of the following grounds:

  • existence of another will that invalidates the one offered to the court
  • Allegations of undue influence
  • Fraud
  • Misrepresentation

If the court approves the will’s validity, the executor fulfills the decedent’s wishes. If not, it applies the state’s intestacy laws.

 

How Can Attorneys at Perigon Legal Services Help?

 

Our probate lawyer in Atlanta will help you navigate the probate court process smoothly. Whether you’re an executor or a named beneficiary of an estate, our probate attorney can assist you in carrying out the wishes of your loved one.

Lawyers at Perigon Legal Services have years of experience in Georgia estate planning and are eager to help you with your estate plan. Contact our law firm today and schedule your free initial consultation.

F.A.Q.s

How Long Does the Probate Process Take in Georgia?

Probate timelines in Georgia vary based on the size and complexity of the estate. Probate without challenges can take between six months and one year. Probate proceedings with contests can take years to conclude.

How Can I Avoid Probate in Georgia?

The ideal way to avoid probate in Georgia is to create an irrevocable or revocable living trust. When you establish a trust, estate assets in the trust will not go through probate after your passing. Alternatively, you can use joint ownerships and bank accounts payable on death.

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