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Georgia Probate: A Comprehensive Guide

Oct 16, 2023 | Probate

Not every estate has to pass through the probate process, but some do, and it can be a tricky legal procedure to navigate alone. If you’ve recently lost a loved one who left their affairs out of order, and you know probate will be necessary, this blog is for you. Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide for the Georgia probate process. Hopefully you’ll find some answers to any impending questions you have, and you’ll walk away with clarity on what to expect for the future of your beloved family member’s estate. Let’s dive in.

How Long Does The Probate Process Take In Georgia?

Probate in Georgia typically takes about 8 months to a year. 

This is no small amount of time, and you’re likely wondering if there are ways to speed the process up. One “shortcut,” to probate for simple estates in Georgia, is a petition for an order declaring no administration necessary. To put it plainly, it’s a request made by the executor of the estate to skip the probate process and distribute the assets themselves, which in turn speeds up the process, saving time and money for all involved parties. However, this shortcut can only apply to decedents who had no will, owned no debts, and whose beneficiaries entitled to receive property have all agreed upon how it will be distributed. 

If this shortcut doesn’t apply to your situation, it’s important to be aware that the more complicated the estate, the longer it will likely take. That’s why it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced probate attorney who can guide you through the steps of the process. 

Now let’s take a look into the actual timeline of probate in Georgia. 

What Influences The Timeline?

There are a number of factors that can influence the timeline of the probate process, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Size of the estate (expedited process for simple estates as previously mentioned)
  • How much of the estate can be transferred out of the probate process
  • Conflict amongst family members
  • Debts that need to be paid
  • Whether or not the validity of the will is being questioned
  • Difficulty filing final tax returns
  • And more!

Again, if you’re dealing with a simple estate where there are no big creditor claims or conflict amongst heirs, the probate process could be completed within a few months. 

When Is It Necessary To File For Probate In Georgia?

Section 53-5-5 of Georgia code states that anyone who is in possession of a will shall file for probate with “reasonable promptness.” 

Grief is difficult, and everyone handles it differently. While you should take the time to mourn your loved one, it’s also important that you file the will sooner rather than later. The quicker you file, the quicker you can settle your loved ones estate and continue moving forward with your life. 

What If Someone Dies But Has A Will? What If They Don’t?

As mentioned above, even if your family member passes away with a will in place, it doesn’t mean they can avoid probate all together. Why?

It’s necessary…

  • to prove the validity of the will
  • to settle any creditor claims
  • if there is no named executor
  • if beneficiaries, heirs, or family members who believe they should be listed as one contests the will

If the decedent dies without a will, their assets are distributed to their closest relatives via Georgia’s intestate succession laws. Only assets that have to pass through probate are affected by these laws. 

See Nolo’s chart below for examples: 

If you die with:here’s what happens:
children but no spousechildren inherit everything
spouse but no descendantsspouse inherits everything
spouse and descendantsspouse and descendants equally share the intestate property, but the spouse’s share may not be less than 1/3
parents but no spouse or descendantsparents inherit everything
siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parentssiblings inherit everything

What Are The Main Steps Of Probate In Georgia?

If you’ve been appointed as an executor of your loved one’s estate, the steps you’ll need to complete go as follows: 

  • Submitting a will and probate petition to the court to begin the process.

-The necessary forms you’ll need to complete can be found here.

  • Taking inventory of assets

-Create a list of your family member’s belongings.

  • Having assets appraised

-Determine the value of their belongings.

  • Maintaining assets until probate is fully resolved

-Protect assets and keep records of any payments so they can be repaid from the estate. 

  • Formally notifying beneficiaries of the decedent’s death

-Any interested party has the right to contest the will, however, they have 30 days from the date that they receive the notice. 

  • Settling any outstanding debts or resolving creditor claims

-After notifying creditors of the decedent’s passing, you’ll likely hear back quickly if they’re owed any money. In Georgia, creditors have to present any claims within 3 months of the date of first publication (notification of death).

  • Filing a final tax return and paying outstanding balance
  • Making decisions regarding the guardianship of any minor children
  • Paying court fees
  • Distributing assets and settling the estate
  • And more!

Learn How Fouts Law Group Can Help You

At Fouts Law Group, we know that probate is a sensitive matter that requires great care and attention to detail. That’s why we want to help lighten your load and guide you through each step of the process, to ensure that you remain legally compliant so you can settle your loved one’s estate and begin to rebuilding your life after your great loss. 

Our probate attorney, Jeff Fouts, has 30+ years of experience helping clients navigate the intricacies of Georgia’s probate process, so it’s safe to say he’s dealt with a wide variety of probate cases ranging from simple to complex. He is a skilled attorney, but also a published author and registered investment advisor. His extensive legal and financial knowledge can make a difference in your case! Call Fouts Law Group today to schedule a free consultation and learn about your next steps towards finding peace. 

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