What is Probate in Georgia?
Probate is a word that often comes up in discussions about estate planning, but many people aren't exactly sure what it means. In simple terms, probate is the typically used term for the legal process after someone dies, which involves validating their will, assessing their assets, and distributing them according to their wishes. That process plays out in the probate court – that's why many people typically refer to this process as probate. The purpose of probate is to ensure that the deceased person's debts are paid and their assets are distributed to the proper beneficiaries.
The Probate Process in Georgia
In Georgia, the probate process is governed by state law and typically involves several key steps. Here, we outline the most common:
- Filing the Will and Petition: The first step in the probate process in Georgia is to file the deceased person's will, along with a petition to begin probate, with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. This must be done by the person named as the executor in the will or by another interested party.
- Appointment of the Executor or Administrator: If the deceased person had a will, the court would typically appoint the person named as the executor to handle the deceased person's affairs. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator. The appointed executor or administrator is responsible for managing the deceased person's assets, paying any debts or taxes owed, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries either in accordance with the Will, or if there is no Will, in accordance with state law.
- Notification of Heirs and Beneficiaries: The executor or administrator must notify all heirs and beneficiaries that the will has been filed and that probate proceedings have begun. This is typically done through a formal notice that is sent via mail.
- Inventory and Appraisal of Assets: The executor or administrator is responsible for identifying and valuing the deceased person's assets. This includes everything from real estate and personal property to bank accounts and investments. An inventory and appraisal of these assets must be filed with the court unless that requirement has been waived.
- Payment of Debts and Taxes: The next step is to pay any debts or taxes owed by the deceased person. This includes everything from mortgage payments and credit card bills to state and federal taxes. The executor or administrator must ensure that all debts and taxes are paid before any remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs.
- Distribution of Assets: Once all debts and taxes have been paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or, if there was no will, to the legal heirs according to state law.
- Closing the Estate: The final step in the probate process is to close the estate. This involves petitioning the court to formally close the estate and release the executor or administrator from their duties. Once the court approves the petition, the probate process is complete.
Why Probate Matters to You
Even if you don't have a will, the probate process can still impact you and your loved ones. For example, if you have a family member who passes away without a will, their assets will be distributed according to state law, which may not align with their wishes or your expectations. On the other hand, if you have a will, the probate process can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. That's why it's essential to have a clear and legally valid will in place. But, not all of your assets usually pass via the Will through probate, and it is important to understand what assets are considered non-probate assets and know how they will be disposed of following your death. The most common non-probate assets are things owned jointly with another with right of survivorship, as well as financial accounts and investment accounts that have a pay on death or transfer on death beneficiary designation.
How Peach State Wills & Trusts Can Help
At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we understand the importance of having a solid estate plan, and we're here to help guide you through the process. We can assist you in creating a will that meets all legal requirements and reflects your wishes, ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your preferences. We can also help you understand the probate process and how it may affect you and your loved ones.
Contact Us Today
If you have any questions about probate or estate planning in Georgia, we invite you to contact Peach State Wills & Trusts at 678-344-5342. Our team of experienced estate planning attorneys is here to provide you with the information and assistance you need to make informed decisions about your estate. Plus, we offer a free guide that you can download here, with no strings attached. Don't wait – reach out to us today to learn how we can help you plan for the future.