Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It involves managing the estate, distributing assets to beneficiaries and paying debts.
Understanding how probate works in Georgia can help you navigate this often complex and lengthy process.
Filing the petition
A family member or another interested party such as the will’s executor starts the probate process. They file a petition in the superior court where the deceased person lived at the time of their death.
Notifying heirs and beneficiaries
Upon receipt of the petition, the court will issue a citation that serves as a notice to all heirs and beneficiaries mentioned in the will. It informs them of the probate proceedings and their right to contest the will if they wish.
Validating the will
If the deceased person had a valid will, the court will verify its authenticity. This typically involves confirming the deceased’s signature and the presence of witnesses.
Only about 33% of Americans have a will. Without a will, the court will distribute the person’s remaining assets according to Georgia’s intestate succession laws.
Appointing an executor
The executor, also known as a personal representative, oversees the probate process. This person will gather and inventory the deceased’s assets, pay debts, taxes and expenses and distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries. The court will appoint an executor if the deceased individual did not name someone for this role.
Handling debts and taxes
During probate, the executor must identify and pay the deceased person’s outstanding debts and taxes. These may include credit card bills, medical expenses and federal and state income taxes. The executor must settle all obligations before distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
After paying all debts and taxes, the executor distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or intestate succession laws. If disputes or challenges to the will arise, the court may need to resolve these issues before closing the estate.
Upon asset distribution, the executor can petition the court to close the estate. If the court approves the request, all aspects of the probate process have been properly addressed, and the estate is officially closed.