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Soperton Probate Lawyer
Navigating Georgia’s Probate Process
In Georgia, most estates pass through probate. This is a court-supervised process in which the deceased’s assets are distributed according to intestate laws or the deceased’s will. When probate is necessary, the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the settling of the estate if there is no named personal representative.
Probate can be a complex, time-consuming process. At Calhoun Law Firm, we help personal representatives and others who need assistance navigating probate. Our Soperton probate attorney has extensive experience and is well-versed in protecting the rights of our clients. We understand the steps involved and know how to help you avoid common mistakes. Our goal is to minimize the risk of disputes and represent your interests if/when they do arise. Most of all, we want to help you through this difficult time with as little stress as possible.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that occurs after an individual passes away. It involves the distribution of their assets and settling of their debts, ensuring that their wishes are carried out according to their will. If the individual died without a will, the estate will be settled according to the applicable intestate laws.
Is Probate Always Necessary?
Probate is not always necessary in Georgia. In fact, many estates are settled outside of probate court. It is also common to have some of the deceased’s assets settled via probate and others distributed outside of this process.
Some assets that may not need to go through probate include:
- Assets owned in joint tenancy with another individual, such as a shared home
- Assets held within a revocable living trust
- Retirement accounts, payable-upon-death bank accounts, and other assets with beneficiaries named outside of the deceased’s will
- Life insurance benefits when there is a named beneficiary
- Pension benefits when there is a named beneficiary
Most other assets—including those owned solely by the deceased—will likely need to pass through probate. This is true even when the individual died with a will and named specific beneficiaries to receive certain assets.
It is also possible to bypass probate when the deceased died without a will. This can only be done, however, when all living heirs agree on the distribution of the deceased’s assets and there are no creditors who object to skipping probate.
What Is the Probate Process in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, the probate process typically consists of several phases:
- Appointing a Personal Representative: The first phase is the appointment of an administrator, or personal representative, who is responsible for managing the deceased person's assets and overseeing the probate process. This individual is usually named in the deceased person's will or appointed by the court if the deceased did not have a will.
- Filing the Will: Once the personal representative is appointed, they must file the will with the probate court in the county where the deceased person resided. This step initiates the probate process. The court then verifies the authenticity of the will and confirms the personal representative’s authority to act on behalf of the estate.
- Administering the Estate: Next, the administration phase begins. During this phase, the personal representative gathers all the deceased person's assets, which may include real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings. They also identify and notify creditors to settle any outstanding debts owed by the estate.
- Settling Debts: In Georgia, there is a statutory waiting period of three months for creditors to file claims against the estate. The personal representative is responsible for reviewing and validating these claims. If the claims are valid, the personal representative uses the estate's assets to pay off the outstanding debts.
- Inventorying Assets: After settling the debts, the personal representative prepares an inventory of the remaining assets to be distributed among the beneficiaries or heirs as specified in the will. If there is no will, Georgia's intestacy laws determine the distribution of assets to the deceased person's closest relatives.
- Distributing and Discharging Assets: Lastly, the distribution and discharge phase begins. The personal representative distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or intestacy laws. Once all obligations are fulfilled, the personal representative petitions the court for the final discharge, officially closing the probate process.
It is important to note that the probate process in Georgia can typically be completed within eight months to a year, barring any complications or disputes. However, disputes over the will or complex estates may prolong the process. In most cases, probate is completed within 12 to 18 months.
How a Probate Lawyer Can Help
The probate process can be complex and overwhelming, especially during a time of grief. Having an attorney by your side can make the process much simpler and far less stressful. At Calhoun Law Firm, our Soperton probate lawyer strives to be your guide, providing legal advice and support during this challenging time.
Some of the ways in which we can help include:
- Providing information and advice on key deadlines, such as filing the will within the specified timeframe, and adhering to statutory waiting periods for creditor claims
- Assisting in identifying and valuing the deceased person's assets and ensuring proper distribution among beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or Georgia's intestacy laws
- Utilizing estate planning strategies to help maximize asset value while minimizing tax implications, such as establishing trusts, utilizing exemptions, or employing gifting strategies
- Managing the deceased person's debts by identifying legitimate creditor claims, negotiating payment terms, and developing a debt repayment plan that adheres to Georgia probate laws
- Advocating for you and protecting your rights and interests, as well as helping resolve disputes and challenges that arise during the probate process, such as contested wills or disagreements between beneficiaries
Our goal is to significantly ease the burden of navigating the probate process. From providing legal guidance, managing paperwork, and advocating for your interests, we are here to help you every step of the way.
He is quick-witted, strategic and overall a man of his word.Macy M.
Perfect mix of professionalism and casual demeanor.Steven L.
I would recommend Paul Calhoun and his staff to anyoneWhit S.