Honor their final wishes.
The stress of losing a loved one is hard enough. Fulfilling their estate planning requests while grieving is not only complex, but can be very confusing. Navigating Georgia’s probate court system, wrapping up final tax filings, and adhering to legal requirements for administering estates is a burden you should not take on by yourself. Let the expert Atlanta probate lawyer at Siedentopf Law take care of it for you.
Our team is experienced at assisting individuals and families across Metro Atlanta with their probate needs. This includes the monitoring and management of the probate process, as well as advising on issues such as intestacy, elder financial abuse, will contests, government liens on estate assets, and more. Reach out to us today about how we can help you through all aspects of Georgia’s probate process.
How we Help:
Once the whirlwind of the funeral and well-wishes has passed, the next step is to figure out what happens with all the “stuff” the deceased left behind. Not just the physical items, but also bills and assets and even digital assets like email and social media accounts must be taken care of and settled.
This is where probate comes into play. Probate is a court proceeding where the deceased’s last will and testament, if there is one, is acted out to satisfy creditors and to pass along items to those they intended to inherit said items. This is overseen by a named executor or administrator. Should there be no will in place, state law steps in to dictate who has initial rights to assets and property, resulting in sometimes contentious dealings.
What is the Probate Process?
The steps of probate typically involve:
- Executor named to administer
- Will proven in court to be valid
- Property found, audited and appraised
- Taxes, bills and debts paid first
- Remaining assets and property distributed according to wishes (if there is a will) or state law (if no will)
An Overview of Georgia’s Probate Process
For those who are uncertain what is involved in administering a will or estate plan during the Georgia probate process, we’ve detailed out the more typical aspects:
Probate Documents Compilation
The first step is to gather the probate process documents that you need. Chief among these are the will, death certificate, life insurance paperwork and property deeds. If the deceased had additional financial or estate planning items in place, like retirement accounts, business ownerships, trusts, etc., any and all paperwork relating to these should also be gathered.
File the Petition for Probate
For most people, this is a two-part step that starts with a visit to an attorney and ends with signing and filing the petition for probate. Along with the petition for probate, all legal heirs have to be notified of the proceeding. All known legal documents should be brought for initial reference.
Notice to Creditors
A notice must be published in the county's "legal organ" (the newspaper designated for legal notices) so that any creditors of the estate have opportunity to submit their claims.
Marshal the Assets
This is fancy legal wording for "getting all the stuff together." It is the estate administrator's duty to open an estate bank account and round up all of the other assets of the estate, from the smallest of knickknacks to houses and more.
Filing Tax Returns
It is the estate administrator's duty to file the decedent's final tax return, including any outstanding or extended tax returns, as applicable.
Distribute the Estate
The estate administrator must pay all creditor claims first. Once these are settled, the remainder of the estate can be divided between heirs. If the estate administrator is being paid for handling the estate, as many have the right to be, this is when the statutory fees are calculated to pay them.
Close the Estate
This step is often overlooked, but as long as the estate remains legally open, the estate administrator is liable for the estate. Officially closing the estate helps to limit that liability and start the statute of limitations running for any claims arising from the handling of the estate.
Even when the amount and types of assets themselves aren’t overwhelming, the formality and bureaucracy of the probate process is often too much, becoming like a full-time job for the estate administrator. It is typically better for everyone involved to hire estate planning professionals to help make the process more efficient. Schedule an appointment with Atlanta estate planning firm Siedentopf Law today to start the probate process.
Handling Estate Probate Disputes in Georgia
Many estates are more complicated than the above bullet points may suggest. And unfortunately, no matter how clear the estate plan may appear on the surface, there can be those who come in to dispute the validity of certain aspects.
Siedentopf Law helps individuals and families throughout Metro Atlanta when probate disputes arise. We have experience representing clients with will caveats, objections to a petition for year’s support, guardianships and more. We can also help in situations of financial abuse by a power of attorney as well as the mishandling of a probate estate by the executor.
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