How Is Probate Defined In Layman’s Terms?
Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes the process of proving in court that a deceased person’s Will is valid which is a very routine matter. It identifies and inventories the deceased person’s property and having that property appraised, which included taxes and all debt. It also includes distributing the remaining property as the will or state law if there is no will to the remaining directs. Typically probate includes paperwork and court appearances by an attorney.
What is Your Experience in Handling Probate Matters?
Our firm has had many years of handling probate matters in the state of Georgia. We have successfully represented executors, estate administrators, heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of estates.
What Kinds of Assistance Can an Attorney Provide to Someone Going Through the Probate Process?
Our firm can provide assistance that ranges from providing occasional advice to handling every step of the process without the client having to do a thing. We help to the extent that the client wants or needs our expertise. We prepare paperwork for the probate court, help determine whether the Will is valid under Georgia law, and deal with any disputes amongst family members. Throughout this process, we give our clients advice and legal representation.
We make sure the Executor of the estate acts in compliance with Georgia law and distributes the estate in a timely manner. We make sure beneficiaries of the Will understand their rights and can help them decide whether object to the Will. We help estate creditors file legal claims against the estate and assert all their legal rights.
Is There More Than One Type of Probate?
In Georgia there are two types of probate: common form probate and solemn form probate. The main differences between the two are how heirs are treated. “Heirs” are those persons who would inherit the estate if there were no lawful Will; heirs may or may not be beneficiaries under the Will.
Common form probate allows the Will to be admitted to probate without giving notice to the estate’s heirs. However, it does not become binding until four years have passed from the filing. Heirs and other interested parties to the estate may file an objection at any point during that four-year period. Due to this long time period, it is fairly uncommon to see this used.
Solemn form of probate, is more commonly used in Georgia. This form of probate requires notice to be immediately given to the heirs. Heirs are then given a period of time, typically fewer than 30 days after filing, to object. Once that period has passed, the judge issues a final order and the probate immediately becomes binding upon all parties. This process is a lot faster and if there is going to be a dispute, we find out before months or years have passed.
For clients without a Will, there is a completely different process used to distribute the estate. You may hear this process referred to as estate administration. This process is different than probate and is governed by a set of laws that set who can take charge of the assets and how the estate is distributed to the heirs.
Are There Any Options Besides Going for A Full Probate in Georgia?
To minimize, and potentially avoid, probate in Georgia, a person needs to plan their estate ahead of time with that goal in mind. For example, one might jointly title their property and bank accounts with a right of survivorship, so that when they die, the ownership transfers to the other person on that title. Alternatively, you can add what is called a “payable on death” (POD) to your bank accounts, where the account automatically goes to a designated person upon their death.
Additionally, they can structure their estate so that it goes through non-probate vehicles, such as life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, or any other account or policy that has a designated beneficiary.
Finally, a person can transfer their assets to a trust to avoid probate. This would help the person avoid probate entirely by transferring all assets into a trust which is not subject to probate and then we can distribute it to the heirs or the beneficiaries of that trust upon the death of that person.
There is a way to avoid probate that I would actively advise against: not having a Will. By not having one, you run this risk of your estate (or parts of it) not being distributed how you would like. This may cause harm to family members and disagreements among them.
For more information on Probate in Georgia, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (404) 939-7562 today.
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