How to Probate a Will


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How to Probate a Will In Georgia?

Do you want to learn how to probate a will? Get in touch with Perigon Legal Services. We can guide you through the probate process. Call 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.

Georgia law requires the executor of an estate, also called personal representative, administrator, or attorney, to file the deceased person’s will with the probate court. The executor must file the will to be able to legally distribute the assets and settle debts.

Filing the will also ensures that all relevant parties, like beneficiaries and creditors, are notified and can file their claims against the decedent’s estate plan within the allocated period.

To probate a will, the executor or anyone who holds the will must file it with the probate court the soonest possible after the testator’s death.

According to Georgia Code 53-5-5, anyone who holds a will and does not file it may face fines and imprisonment until it’s filed. Moreover, the will must be filed within five years after the appointment of the personal representative, according to Georgia’s time limitation.

The probate process may go smoothly if all beneficiaries and creditors agree with the will. However, if conflicts arise, it’s crucial to seek the help of a probate lawyer. Our experienced attorneys at Perigon Legal Services are ready to help you.

How Does Probate Work?

The purpose of probate is to legally pass a deceased person’s assets to their named heirs. According to Georgia estate law, probate is necessary under the following circumstances:

  • The deceased person did not leave a will or designated beneficiaries.

  • There’s some conflict regarding the distribution of the assets.

It’s important to note that not all assets require probate. Examples of assets that don’t require probate include:

  • Co-owned assets and community property

  • Assets with a named beneficiary outside of the will, such as life insurance proceeds, medical savings, pensions, and retirement accounts

Usually, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s property will oversee the probate process. If the will doesn’t designate an executor, the court appoints one from the decedent’s next of kin, such as a surviving spouse or child.

The process can be expensive, especially if creditors or other beneficiaries contest the will. Probate costs can include court fees, filing fees, executor fees and bonds, and attorney fees.

A Step-By-Step Guide on Probating a Will in Georgia

After filing the will with the court, a formal notice is published in official newspapers to notify the estate creditors and beneficiaries. If claims against the estate are filed, the probate process will get more complicated. However, it usually goes as follows:

  1. Filing the petition: The administrator needs to file a petition with the probate clerk and attach the required forms and documents, including the decedent’s death certificate as proof of death. The executor must also pay the probate court fees.
  2. Collecting and valuing assets: The executor must collect and value the deceased’s assets and file a findings report with the court.
  3. Posting a bond: The executor posts a bond with the probate court as a guarantee to administer the estate according to Georgia law and the will. Unless the will waives the bond, the executor must post it. The bond money will be paid back to the executor after the assets are distributed per the will.
  4. Informing all relevant parties: Executors need to locate and inform all named beneficiaries. They also communicate with creditors to settle the estate debts. 
  5. Settling debts and taxes: Outstanding debts, taxes, and all other estate expenses must be paid before the distribution of assets. If they don’t agree with the will, creditors must file their claims within three months from the publication of the notice to collect unpaid debts.
  6. Distributing the remaining assets: The remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries after settling the estate liabilities. If a beneficiary doesn’t agree with the will, they may challenge it in court.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Probate proceedings can take anywhere between six months to a few years in Georgia. The probate duration depends on several factors, which include:

  • Many beneficiaries in the will that the executor needs to trace and contact

  • Geographical barriers, especially when beneficiaries live outside the state where the decedent lived

  • Claims against the estate by creditors, beneficiaries, or both since the probate judge will settle disputes before the process can continue

  • Involvement of assets that are hard to value due to their nature or location

  • Involvement of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to pay off unpaid estate taxes

  • Hard to distribute assets like business and real estate interests

Settling an estate is not easy, and the longer the process, the costlier it gets. A lengthy process also increases the chances of conflicts at any stage. A probate lawyer on your side can make things easier for you and your family.

How Can an Attorney From Perigon Legal Services Help During Probate?

Attorneys are instrumental during probate. Our estate planning attorneys at Perigon Legal Services are familiar with estate laws in Georgia and ready to work on your behalf so that you can have some peace of mind during this challenging time.

We can offer you legal services that are tailored to your needs and your case, including:

  • Acting as your executor in case the will doesn’t designate one

  • Guiding the appointed executor in administering the estate and the legal process according to Georgia probate laws

  • Helping you access and understand the probate records when needed

  • Representing you if you wish to contest the will

  • Helping you find out and pay the estate’s due taxes

  • Helping you look for and hire professionals to appraise the estate

  • Managing the estate’s bank accounts to keep track of the finances

  • Facilitating the transfer of assets from the decedent’s name to the beneficiaries’ names

If you are looking for a probate attorney in Georgia, you can consult one for free at Perigon Legal Services. Our estate attorneys can guide you through the probate process and handle all the intricacies of settling an estate. Our comprehensive services will allow you and your family to grieve your loved one away from courtrooms. Contact us today!

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