In some states, probate laws provide for a very simplified and streamlined probate process for what are considered to be small estates. This can help reduce the time and costs of going through a full probate proceeding when there are limited assets. People with experience with those simplified probate processes often ask if Georgia has a similar, simplified process. Unfortunately, the short answer to that question is no, not really. We do, however, have two special processes that apply in some very specific circumstances.
1) Small Bank Account Process
Let's use this example: the decedent died without a will and the only asset they have is money in a bank account with a value of less than 15,000. In this scenario, the bank can, upon receipt of an affidavit prepared under Georgia law, pay those funds to the person's surviving spouse, and if none, then to his or her surviving children, and if none, then to the person's mother and father, and if none, then to siblings.
But if there are assets other than money in a bank account, or the funds in the account exceed $15,000, this procedure will not fully address all assets and settle the estate, and a regular probate or administration process would likely be necessary.
2) Petition for an Order of No Administration Necessary
In this example, the decedent died intestate (meaning without a will) and with no administrator appointed to the estate. All of the legal heirs have agreed to a plan of distribution of the assets, and there is no disagreement or fight over assets and management of the estate. For this process to be allowed, there needs to be no debts owed, or if there are, the creditors involved have consented to the petition and the plan for distribution of assets, or at least they don't object to the petition. If a creditor files a written objection, the order of no administration necessary will not be issued. If the petition is granted and no administration is ordered, any creditors who later arise and pursue a claim can come after the heirs to the extent of the value of the property that was distributed to such heir. Because of that potential liability, use of this method may not be preferred if there appear to be potential creditor claims, and a regular probate or estate administration may be more appropriate.
Although Georgia does not have a small estate probate process like other states, probate in Georgia is relatively straightforward, though it may be time consuming. The two processes described above can work in some situations, but certainly not all. If you have questions about the probate process or need help settling an estate you can reach us at 678-344-5342.
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