Probate is the legal process that validates a deceased person's will and settles their estate. It involves inventorying the deceased's assets, paying their debts, and distributing the remaining assets as the will dictates or, in the absence of a will, as per Georgia's laws of intestacy.
The need for probate in Georgia hinges on whether there are assets considered to be probate assets, meaning that there are assets that need to go through the probate process in Georgia to be transferred to others. Not all estates require probate, and understanding this distinction is crucial for effective estate planning.
Probate Value Threshold in Georgia
Other states have small probate procedures available as a way to streamline the probate process for smaller estates, but Georgia does not. However, Georgia does provide an exception when the only assets are funds less than $15,000 in a bank account, and the decedent had no will. In such a situation, those funds can be paid to designated family members under the law by the filing of an appropriate affidavit pursuant to O.C.G.A. 7-1-239, provided there is no will and no corresponding claimants to the funds. If the funds in the bank exceed $15,000, this option is not available.
Importantly, Georgia law does not have a specific dollar amount that triggers the need for probate, beyond the exception noted above involving a bank account where there is no will. Instead, the need for probate primarily depends on how the deceased's assets were owned. Certain types of property, including assets held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, assets owned by trusts, and life insurance policies and retirement and other financial accounts with designated beneficiaries, bypass probate and go directly to the named beneficiaries. These are commonly referred to as non-probate assets. All other assets are generally probate assets, and are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries through the probate process. But, if the deceased only owned non-probate assets, there may be no need for probate.
The Role of Wills in Probate
While having a will does not eliminate the need for probate, it does streamline the process. Moreover, creating a will allows you to choose the right representative to handle your affairs and ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
Without a will, your estate would be divided under Georgia's intestacy laws, which may not align with your intentions. In addition, the court will choose someone to administer your estate, and it may not be the person you'd want to manage your affairs. For these reasons, having a well-crafted will is a vital part of estate planning.
Filing a Petition for an Order Declaring No Administration Necessary
In rare situations, Georgia allows an estate to bypass the probate process by filing a petition requesting an order declaring no administration necessary. For this procedure, all heirs– the individuals entitled to receive a share of the estate according to the laws of intestate succession–must agree to a plan to divide the assets, creditors must agree, and the decedent must be intestate (no will).
Planning Ahead with Peach State Wills & Trusts
The complexities of probate can be challenging, but strategic estate planning can simplify the process. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we specialize in creating tailored estate plans that align with your goals. And, we help families navigate through the Georgia probate process as well. Contact us at 678-344-5342 for help with your estate planning or probate needs. For additional information about estate planning in Georgia, you can download our free guide here, no strings attached. Let's work together to secure your peace of mind.