When a loved one passes away, taking care of their estate can feel like a major complication during an already difficult time. The distribution of assets can sometimes become further complicated because there are a lot of moving parts and people involved.
Probate is the process to transfer the property of a person who has died. The probate court decides on the proper administration of the deceased person’s property. The length of time it takes for an estate to be administered also depends on the value of the estate and how it’s set up to be distributed.
Probate laws vary by state, and the process in Georgia is no exception. We’re here to help make sure you understand the process and are prepared for what you can expect as far as the timeline for probate to be settled.
The Probate Process and Timeline
Either a comprehensive estate plan or a couple of other limited factors might help you avoid probate altogether. But if probate is required, you’ll want to be prepared for a time commitment of roughly a year to 18 months to settle an estate. For Chatham County, those numbers have been known to vary.
While that may seem like a huge time commitment, hiring a probate attorney can help you simplify this arduous process.
Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:
- Filing of a petition with the proper probate court.
- Notice to heirs under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
- Petition to appoint Executor (in the case of a Will) or Administrator for the estate.
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
- Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
- Sale of estate assets.
- Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
- Final distribution of assets to heirs.
Here’s a look at the steps you will be taking from start to finish, to help get a clear idea of the timeline:
Petition and Organization
First, probate is filed and a personal representative is appointed to represent the estate. There are probate forms to fill out, and paperwork to organize which can take up to a few months to get in order.
Announcement and Administration
You should expect a minimum of 4 months for the next step, where all the details are being ironed out, from settlements to distribution of assets. This begins with publishing a notice in the newspaper that runs for 4 weeks to give creditors an opportunity to collect on outstanding obligations. After that, the estate must be left open for 3 months. Larger estates and a more complicated distribution of assets will increase the length of this step.
Distribution and Closing the Estate
You can expect that the remaining assets will be distributed and the estate will be closed once all other steps have been completed. This can take up to three months or more.
There are some factors that can increase the length of time this process will take, including:
- Guardianship Considerations
- Dealing with a large number of beneficiaries, or a wide disbursement to beneficiaries
- Meeting creditor claims and fulfilling outstanding obligations
- Litigation involving the personal representative’s duties or contesting the will or beneficiaries
Don’t let the process or the timeline of probate overwhelm you. Contact Us today to reach expert probate attorneys that can simplify the process, and help answer the questions that will come up during the process, so you can navigate it with confidence.