Posted On: March 7, 2010 by Duncan H. Adams

BEING EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR OF AN ESTATE IN GEORGIA PROBATE COURT – ARE YOU UP TO THE TASK? – GUIDELINES AND SUGGESTIONS

If you are, or may be, an executor or administrator of an estate in GA probate court I believe you should consider that you are in charge of managing the bulk of the administrative responsibilities related to the administration of the estate in Georgia and have a strict fiduciary duties to carry out.

As a potential or acting executor or administrator of an estate in GA probate court, you must understand that you are legally accountable for the expeditious management of nearly all administrative responsibilities related to the administration of the Georgia estate considering the circumstances. These legal obligations are referred to and set forth in Title 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) which governs “Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates.” These legal obligations are a lofty standard and referred to as your fiduciary duties under Georgia probate law. These “fiduciary duties" impose on all executors and administrators exceptionally demanding legal responsibilities to the estate beneficiaries, heirs, Georgia probate court and other “interested parties”.

The Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor) Obligations and Duties Include:

1. Make sure that desired funeral arrangements are made and carried out.
2. Locate the original will and file with the Georgia Probate Court with the correct petition and other legally required documents. This includes the decedent’s death certificate.
3. Petition the GA Probate Court for appointment as Executor or Administrator (both referred to as a “Personal Representative” under GA law) and Petition for Letters Testamentary or Petition for Letters of Administration depending on the whether a Will governs the decedent’s estate and whether there is a Personal Representative available to serve under the Will.
4. For decedent’s estates, publish Notice to Debtors and Creditors of the Estate in the legal newspaper (“Legal Organ”). Publish legal Notice of Hearing in the legal newspaper, or other publication, acceptable to the Court.
5. Obtain death certificate or doctor's statement for insurance claims (sometimes birth and marriage certificates also are necessary).
6. Notify all heirs, legatees, devisees, and next of kin of their interest in the estate. Search for any heirs if necessary. Petition the Court for Determination of Heirs if necessary.
7. Locate any safe deposit box or location where relevant instructions, documents, assets of the estate may be kept. Arrange for inventory of safe deposit box contents.
8. Obtain any whole and/or life insurance claim forms, fill out, and submit with policy (or policies). Obtain proceeds for beneficiary and Form 712 for estate tax return.
9. File claims for final medical bills with Medicare and other medical insurance carriers.
10. Assemble necessary documents for each parcel of real estate or mineral interest, including deeds, leases, tax receipts, title abstracts, and insurance policies.
11. If necessary, oppose in Court all incorrect or invalid claims against the estate.

12. Check on any Veteran's Administration benefits.
13. Check on possible pension, or other employee benefits.
14. Check on Social Security benefits for survivors.
15. Check on Social Security lump-sum death benefit.
16. Locate bank accounts and transfer funds to estate account.
17. Obtain from Court permission for allowances, support, and claims of spouse (Years Support).
18. Marshall the assets of the Estate (Collect and take possession of all assets and protect and preserve those assets. This may include cash accounts, stocks, bonds, real property, personal property, etc.)
19. Find suitable and safe investments for surplus cash via a financial professional and per prudent Investor Rule.
20. Execute appropriate purchases and sales. Value marketable securities and closely held assets.
21. Collect dividends and interest on estate's assets and add to estate account.
22. Arrange for appraisals of real estate, jewelry, stamp, and coin collections, etc., to determine fair market value for tax and accounting purposes.
23. Prepare an inventory of all estate assets including bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, furniture, jewelry and other possessions; file original with estate account. Court (as required) and send copies to beneficiaries.
24. Examine all real estate and mineral interests. Determine insurance, status of taxes, bills, leases, and assessments. If necessary, screen for environmental contamination.
25. Determine what debts exist. This usually includes any mortgages (“Deeds to Secure Debt”) and loans of decedent (Life Insurance, Bank, Trust, Personal, Home Equity, Reverse Mortgages, etc. Locate and determine Credit Cards bills, Medical Bills, Other outstanding bills and negotiate and pay these debts.
26. Determine the existence of any business interest owned. This includes any closely held stock and partnership interests.
27. Supervise operation of family-owned business until either sold or distributed.
28. For income-producing real estate, collect rents, make repairs, pay real estate taxes, maintain insurance, arrange for utility services, and handle all tenant-related issues.
29. For estates, pay claims after claim period has expired. Obtain receipts and/or vouchers for all bills and claims paid.
30. Communicate regularly with co-fiduciaries and interested parties. Keep the peace between the interested parties of the estate and treat all fairly and equally and keep same informed in a fair and impartial fashion.
31. Maintain complete records for all transactions in the account and provide statements for all receipts and disbursements.
32. Ascertain cash requirements for debts, taxes and expenses, and review all assets to see how necessary funds can best be raised.
33. Prepare inventories and court accountings to be filed with the court and provided to the beneficiaries and heirs, etc.
34. Select valuation date for federal estate tax return. (This selection can often provide substantial savings.)
35. Prepare and file final federal (1040) and state income tax returns for the decedent.
36. Prepare federal and state estate tax returns as required. Determine charitable, marital, or other deductions and elections.
37. Compute estimate of any state and federal death taxes. Prepare preliminary tax notices required by law. Evaluate tax-planning options.
38. Determine whether administrative expenses should be used as fiduciary income tax or estate tax deductions.
39. Prepare gift tax or generation-skipping tax returns as required.
40. Prepare federal and state income tax returns for the estate and any trusts.
41. Pay final administration expenses and fees.
42. Obtain Estate Tax Closing Letter from Internal Revenue Service.
43. Prepare final federal and state income tax returns for the estate and/or trust and give Internal Revenue Service notice of termination of fiduciary relationship.
44. If the estate is audited by a government agency and a tax deficiency is levied, determine whether to negotiate, appeal or accept the ruling.
45. Prepare detailed final accounting that is acceptable to the Court and send copies to beneficiaries as required.
46. Prepare Report of Final Distribution and send original to Court with copies to beneficiaries as required.
47. Arrange for transfer and registration of securities with transfer agent. Execute and file deeds.
48. Prepare a Plan of Division and Cash Accounting to divide the residue of the estate.
49. Distribute estate assets to beneficiaries or heirs in accordance with the Plan of Distribution and Cash Accounting.
50. Petition Court for discharge of Executor or Administrator (both referred to as a “Personal Representative” of estate).

The Adams Law Offices is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, GA. Our Office provides experienced legal representation through exceptional Atlanta Probate Attorneys. We represents clients throughout the Metro Atlanta, GA area including the following GA County Probate Courts: Atlanta, GA (Fulton County Probate Court); Decatur, GA (DeKalb County Probate Court); Marietta, GA (Cobb County Probate Court); Lawrenceville, GA (Gwinnett County Probate Court); Fayetteville, GA (Fayette County Probate Court); and the cities in these GA Counties and their respective GA County Probate Court.

The Adams Law Offices has many decades of combined experience through its experienced Atlanta Probate attorneys and staff, specialized in assisting with the Administration of any estate, and can assist you whether you are Executor, Administrator or serve in a dual capacity (Co-Executors-Co-Administrators). Should you have any questions or desire any assistance concerning Probate Court matters, Estate Administration in GA County Probate Court, Estate Litigation in GA County Probate Court, please feel free to call our Firm (404) 467-8611 or 1-877-412-3267, to discuss your options. You can also send us a message through our confidential Web Site form.

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