Georgia Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer

Last will and testament with wooden judge gavelAfter a loved one’s wrongful death, their estate-planning documents, along with their assets, must be verified before they are distributed. In most cases, this process is handled by the probate court. 

“Probate” technically refers to the process of establishing the validity of a deceased person’s (decedent’s) will, but also encompasses the procedures required to protect estate assets, pay the estate’s legal debts (including taxes), and distribute the estate’s remaining property in accordance with the will.

When there is no will or trust left behind, the matter of distributing assets can become much more complex. No matter the situation, the attorneys at Scholle Law have over 25 years of experience helping the family members of wrongful death victims evaluate and follow their loved one’s last wishes.

Give us a call today at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Georgia probate and estate administration lawyer if your loved one was the victim of wrongful death.

The Probate Process in Georgia

charles scholle speaking with a clientProbate in Georgia is a relatively streamlined and inexpensive process compared to many other states.

The first step in the process is to file a Petition for Probate in the county where the decedent lived. The “propounder” of the will, usually the executor named in the will, may file the Petition to Probate in “common form” or “solemn form.” 

Common form is used when the executor of the will believes it will not be contested and, therefore, heirs are not notified. However, you must wait four years for any challenges to be brought before the probate process is complete. Typically, common form is used when difficulty contacting heirs is expected.

With solemn form probate, all heirs receive a copy of the petition and the will. While heirs do have an opportunity to contest the will, solemn form is generally used if all heirs are easily contacted and are expected to consent to the will. 

If all the requirements are met and there are no objections for heirs, the propounder is sworn under oath and becomes the “Executor” of the estate. The probate judge will then issue “Letters Testamentary,” which officially document the authority of the executor to administer the estate.

The executor has a fiduciary duty to notify creditors, pay taxes, and carry out the wishes of the testator. Probate time limits are very strict. The specific duties and powers of the executor are established by Georgia statute and may be incorporated by reference within the will.

Administering an estate with no will

Court of Law and Justice Trial Session Impartial Honorable Judge Pronouncing Sentence, striking GavelWhen someone dies “intestate,” or without a will, the probate court judge can appoint an administrator to pay the debts and disburse the decedent’s property to his heirs at law.

To begin the process, application must be made in the probate court of the county where the decedent died if he or she was a Georgia resident.

If he or she was not a resident, application should be made in the probate court of the county where some or all of the estate property is located.

Anyone of sound mind can qualify as administrator, but priority is usually given to the spouse. Under certain circumstances, such as where there is a pending divorce action, priority falls on the next of kin to be administrator.

Administration of the estate may also be requested when an executor named under a will cannot or will not serve. In this case, a petition for administration is filed with the will “annexed,” or attached. A majority of the beneficiaries under the will can agree on an administrator or the probate judge may appoint someone if they cannot agree. 

In certain limited situations, no administrator needs to be appointed to handle the estate. The court supplies an order stating that no formal administration is necessary. This can be useful where one or two assets, even real estate, must be legally transferred to the heirs. Among other requirements, there must not be a will, and the debts of the decedent must be taken care of.

 

What to Do After the Wrongful Death of a Loved One in Georgia

Psychologist Comforting Senior ManFirst, take a deep breath and grieve in an appropriate way. Mourn your dearly departed and consider seeking bereavement counseling.

Although there are Georgia probate time limits, if you have enough money to pay all bills due the first month following the death of a loved one, and as long as there are no pressing emergencies, it is usually fine to wait a few weeks before seeing an attorney.

When you are ready to speak to a probate and estate administration attorney, take the following steps:

1. Gather important documents

  • Certified copies of the Death Certificate: Get at least 5 copies from the county health department, county Probate Court or funeral director.
  • ID Numbers: Make a list of social security numbers of the deceased, the spouse and any dependent children. Include the birth and military service number of the deceased, if possible.
  • Insurance Policies: Look for life insurance, mortgage or loan insurance, accident insurance, auto insurance, and credit card insurance.
  • Marriage Certificate: Copies are available at the probate court clerk’s office in the county where the license was issued.
  • Copy of the Will (if any): If you do not know where the deceased kept the original, check the safety deposit box or safe. If unsuccessful, contact an attorney.
  • Income Tax Returns: Get copies of the returns for the last four years.
  • Asset list: It should show all real, personal and financial property belonging to the deceased. Learn the difference between probate and non-probate assets.

2. Find out what matters are “time-sensitive” 

If there are mortgages, notes payable, and other debt-related obligations, payments may need to be made quickly. If the decedent used the services of a CPA or bookkeeper, contact this person immediately. If not, it may be a good idea to find an accountant to help you make sense of the financial records.

3. Find an attorney who cares

Perhaps the most important step you can take is finding a probate lawyer who understands what you are going through and focuses on how they can help you, not how much money they can make. Estate administration, especially after a wrongful death, is a process that requires empathy and compassion. 

With the help of the Georgia probate and estate administration lawyer at Scholle Law, the legal process can be taken off your plate so you can focus on what is important.

 

Speak to a Georgia Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Today

annette malena, charles scholle, todd shugart group photo

From left: Attorneys Annette Malena, Charles Scholle,
and Todd I. Shugart

When a loved one dies, distributing their assets may be a long, complex process that can be overwhelming. Facing it alone, especially in the wake of your loss, will likely be the last thing you want to do. 

At Scholle Law, our team has over 25 years of experience compassionately helping the family members of wrongful death victims evaluate and follow their loved one’s last wishes. 

Give us a call today at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Georgia probate and estate administration lawyer if your loved one was the victim of wrongful death.