Georgia law generally requires probate after someone dies. The Georgia probate process accomplishes four main things:
(1) Validates the will
(2) Inventories the property of the deceased
(3) Pays the taxes and debts of the estate
(4) Distributes the assets per the will
Probate differs from state to state. Compared to other states, Georgia offers a more simplified process. Working with probate attorneys in Savannah ensures the process is as streamlined as possible.
Is Probate Necessary?
Despite what many people think, you don’t always need to probate an estate. If the deceased person prepares their finances and property correctly, they can pass their assets on without probate.
Probate is unnecessary for the following types of assets:
- Assets owned in joint tenancy pass automatically to the joint surviving owner.
- Retirement accounts and life insurance policies with named beneficiaries pass assets outside the will.
- Other assets, residences, and property held in a revocable living trust.
A review of the best ways to avoid probate can be found here.
If probate is necessary, the will should name an executor of the estate. The executor, or personal representative (PR), will start the probate process by filing a petition with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. In Georgia, there are two different types of probate, solemn form or common form. The PR will most often file solemn form. The solemn form petition requires notice to all heirs of the decedent and that the PR expects all disputes to be resolved in the first court appearance. With a common form petition, you aren’t required to notify the heirs. However, the case must remain open for four years.
Once the court deems all steps have been completed, it issues “Letters Testamentary”. Now the personal representative has the official power to act on behalf of the estate carry out the deceased’s wishes. However, prior to distributing any assets, all creditors must be notified and taxes and debts paid.
Probate When There is No Will
Differing from other states, there are certain circumstances where Georgia does not require the full probate process. The estate must meet the following three criteria to request a no administration necessary from the court:
(1) There is no will;
(2) No debts are owed; AND
(3) The heirs agree on how the property is divided and distributed.
Contact a Savannah Probate Lawyer
Every estate is different, and every probate case is different. To help you navigate (or avoid) the process smoothly, it is best to work with a probate lawyer. Contact Smith Barid today for the help and guidance you need.