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What to Expect With the Probate Process in Georgia

There is a longstanding belief that going through probate is a horrific process, and the entire estate is at risk of being wiped out due to expenses and fees. While probate can be emotional and stressful, it does not have to become a nightmare, especially in Georgia. Compared with other states, Georgia offers a more simplified process; and with the right Atlanta probate and trust attorney the process can be even more streamlined.

Here is a general overview of what you can expect during the probate process in Georgia.

Probate When There is a Will

When the decedent took the time to prepare proper estate planning documents, it makes the probate process much easier. At a minimum, having a will helps the court decide how to distribute the deceased’s estate. In addition, the will names an executor for the estate who is responsible for handling all the administrative aspects of the probate.

The first step is for the executor to file a Petition for Probate in the county where the decedent lived.  The executor will choose whether to file the petition in “common form” or “solemn form.” A petition filed in common form is filed without notice to any heirs or beneficiaries but is not conclusive for at least four years. A petition filed in solemn form requires notice to all heirs at law of the decedent but the executor can be discharged six months after appointment.

Once all steps are completed, the executor is sworn in under oath to become the official executor after the probate judge issues “Letters Testamentary.” The Letters Testamentary give an executor the official power to act on behalf the estate and carry out the decedent’s wishes.

The executor is bound by fiduciary duty and has to make sure all steps are completed in a timely manner. This includes notifying creditors, paying any taxes owed, and distributing remaining assets to the proper heirs and beneficiaries.

Probate When There is No Will

When someone passes away with no will, it’s known as dying “intestate.” The Probate Court will appoint someone as the estate administrator, who then will be responsible for paying debts and distributing the property to the decedent’s heirs according to Georgia law. The petition will be filed in the county where the decedent lived if he or she were a resident of Georgia. Otherwise, it will be filed in the county where he or she died or where a portion or all of the property is located.

Who Can Be an Executor?

An executor or administrator of the estate must be of sound mind. That is the main requirement, but priority is often given to the decedent’s spouse or next of kin. Sometimes the court will need to appoint an administrator even when there is a will because the named executor does not want, or is unable, to serve.

Contact a Georgia Probate Attorney

Every probate is different and may involve additional steps and different procedures. This is why you need an Atlanta probate attorney to help. If you were named as an executor in someone’s will or a family member just passed away, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Contact the probate attorneys at MendenFreiman at 770-379-1450 today to schedule an initial consultation.

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