When you begin planning your estate, you must understand whether or not your assets must go through probate. With this legal process, the court will supervise the distribution of estate property and payment of debts.
Explore the Georgia probate process to help inform your estate planning needs.
Anything you own jointly with another person will transfer automatically to the other owner when you die. For example, if you own a home with your spouse, he or she will become the sole owner without probate. Other common probate-exempt assets include property in a revocable living trust, pension or life insurance accounts with a designated beneficiary, and payable on death bank accounts with a named beneficiary.
The process of probate
When you create a will, you can name a personal representative who will be responsible for managing your estate after you die. He or she must ask the court to open the probate process and take an oath to act in the estate’s best interest.
The court provides the representative with Letters Testamentary, a legal document that he or she can use to settle your estate affairs. This includes the authority to distribute estate assets as established in your will, pay taxes and debts of the estate, appraise and/or sell assets if necessary, and keep the estate assets secure throughout this process.
Depending on the size of your estate, probate can take between six to 12 months in Georgia. However, if anyone contests the will or files legal complaints against the personal representative, the process will last longer as the court untangles these issues.
Georgia law is unique in that a beneficiary of the will can ask the court for exemption from probate. All heirs must agree on the plan for the division of the estate assets. They must file the state’s Petition for Order Declaring No Administration Necessary. However, this process is unavailable if the estate has outstanding creditor claims.