What Is Probate?
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate usually must go through a court-supervised process called probate or estate administration, unless the deceased loved one had a living trust and all assets were funded to the trust (we go over what this means when we talk with you).
Probate administration is the process in which the deceased person’s (decedent) assets are collected, his or her debts are paid, and then the remaining property is distributed to the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries. The decedent’s “personal representative” is referred to as the executor/executrix if the deceased person had a will, and the administrator if a person died without a valid Will or whose Will did not name an executor.
This legal process can be overwhelming and unfamiliar. We are here to help you during a difficult time and make the process as smooth as possible.
What Is The Probate Process In Georgia?
The length of the probate process depends on the size and complexity of the estate, the local rules, and the probate court’s workload. The average probate is typically 6 months to 1 year.
While each probate case is different, the process of administering an estate in Georgia generally involves the following steps:
- A petition is filed by your personal representative with the proper probate court in the county where the deceased resided.
- Notice is provided to everyone named in the will (the beneficiaries) and all family members.
- The probate court issues the Letters Testamentary to the executor or Letters of Administration to the administrator, as proof that he or she has authority to administer the estate.
- The personal representative sends notice to all creditors of the estate and pays the debts out of the assets in order of priority set by state law. Some estate assets may be sold in order to pay off outstanding debts or to be able to distribute the estate among the beneficiaries.
- In some instances, the Executor/Administrator may have to file an inventory within 6 months of being appointed and an appraisal of the estate assets with the probate court.
- The personal representative is responsible for filing certain tax returns within a specified time and may be held liable for failing to pay taxes due from estate assets.
Remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries/heirs and usually a final accounting is prepared and presented to the heirs or beneficiaries for approval prior to distribution.
Probate administration can be complicated and the individuals appointed as personal representatives must have competent and experienced counsel to guide them through this process. They must make important decisions, sometimes quickly, and they need help to make them wisely. They may need to prepare inventories of your property, prepare tax returns, or sign other important documents on your behalf. Ultimately, they will be the individuals to step into action and execute according to your instructions.
As you can see, being a personal representative is a tough job. There can be a lot of stress and pressure placed on the personal representative during probate.
We know this process may seem overwhelming and mysterious. We’re here to help you navigate this process and make your experience as smooth as possible. We look forward to meeting and helping you.