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What is the Probate Process in Georgia?

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 including physical assets, bills, and digital assets like email and social media accounts. 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.
For Georgia Residents

How Does Georgia's Probate Process Work?

Many are uncertain about what is involved in administering a will or estate plan during the Georgia probate process, so we’ve outlined each step below.

Document Compilation

The probate process documents that you need include the will, death certificate, life insurance paperwork and property deeds. Any paperwork for additional financial or estate planning items like retirement accounts, business ownerships or trusts should also be gathered.

Filing the Petition for Georgia 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.

Creditor Notices

A notice must be published in the county newspaper designated for legal notices so that any creditors of the estate have opportunity to submit their claims.

Asset Collection

It is the estate administrator's duty to open an estate bank account and round up all assets of the estate, from the smallest of knickknacks to houses and more.

Tax Filing

It is the estate administrator's duty to file the decedent's final tax return. They must also include any outstanding or extended tax returns as applicable.

Distributing 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 can be, this is when the statutory fees are calculated to pay them.

Closing 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.

Probate is a Process

Why Should I Start Planning Now?

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.

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