December 5, 2012

BEING EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR OF A GEORGIA ESTATE IS A DEMANDING UNDERTAKING

As a prospective or acting executor or administrator of a Georgia Estate, there are significant advantages in seeking and retaining the services of an experienced GA attorney or law firm. You likely will save money for the estate, understand and be counseled and advised on how to be fairly and fully compensated for finding, identifying and gathering the estate assets; transferring these assets into the estate name and account(s); making necessary and proper transactions, payments and distributions during the estate administration process; carrying out your fiduciary duties to the estate beneficiaries and heirs and any third parties with a binding legal interest in the estate; and, finalizing administration of the estate per Georgia law by distributing the estate assets to the proper beneficiaries or heirs of the estate. These are just an overview summary of the fiduciary duties you must carry out.

The estate administration process in Georgia probate court is much more in depth and complicated than the brief overview above and consulting an attorney and law firm that are experienced in Georgia probate and estate administration law is necessary and highly advisable. This is true whether the estate is straightforward or complex, small or large in monetary value or other assets such as real property, or whether there are only a few beneficiaries or many.

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December 4, 2012

GEORGIA ESTATE ADMINISTRATION LAWYER GUIDELINES FOR EXECUTORS AND ADMINISTRATORS (THE “PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE”)

In my Atlanta, Georgia Probate Law Firm's practice, I routinely counsel executors and administrators on how to administer Georgia estates. The role of an executor or administrator, (referred to under Georgia Probate Law as a “personal representative”) is challenging and is often accepted before a full understanding of the duties is apparent. The personal representative must be able to manage the process and the requests of the other parties involved, such as heirs and/or beneficiaries. One of the most sensible steps a personal representative can take is to retain the services of an experienced estate and probate attorney. The attorney will guide the executor or administrator during the probate process and can help prevent issues that surface from becoming full-blown disputes that require litigation.

There are a few general guidelines to follow that are very important when taking on the role of personal representative. The first is not to make any promises to anyone involved, including the heirs and beneficiaries. The Georgia probate process has a cadence of its own, with deadlines and procedures that need to be handled efficiently and properly. Giving a general timeline for the process is sufficient and it is key to stress that the proceedings will move faster if conflict is kept to a minimum.

Secondly, the Georgia estate administration process can be long. Prepare yourself as executor or administrator for this, and let the others involved know that the process will take time to complete. This is critical. Typically, the longer the probate process takes, the more common it is for beneficiaries and heirs to get anxious and start to argue. With conflict comes the need for lengthy mediation or litigation and as more time is spent, probate costs increase. As executor or administrator, it is imperative to be patient and manage not only your own expectations, but also the expectations of everyone involved.

A third point is that it is advantageous to begin the probate process by opening the estate as quickly as possible. As the administrator or executor, you must be appointed by the court to have the legal authority to administer the estate. Personal representatives have a fiduciary duty and must be thorough in carrying out the required steps to offer up the will (if one exists) as the definitive document that expresses the final wishes of the deceased. When a will does not exist, an administrator will be assigned to manage the estate. Often the stage is set early on for family disharmony and infighting, power struggles, disputes, and litigation. This is especially true when it takes too long to open the estate. Diligence, accuracy, honesty, and care in this process is essential and hopefully will keep the Georgia probate process moving forward more smoothly.

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October 20, 2012

HAVE YOU BEEN APPOINTED A GEORGIA ESTATE EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR? NOW WHAT? AN ATLANTA PROBATE, WILLS, TRUST, AND ESTATE LAWYER SPEAKS

In the beginning of the Georgia estate probate process, the Georgia probate court will assign an executor or administrator (also known as a personal representative) to manage the distribution of an estate. This occurs when no will exists. It also occurs when the executor named in a will cannot serve or does not want to serve, or when no executor is named. Many times when the Georgia probate court appoints an individual as a personal representative, this comes as a surprise to the appointee.

The initial surprise often changes to concern when the personal representative realizes the serious nature of their new role. The administrative responsibilities of personal representatives are fiduciary in nature and require knowledge and diligence to complete. Personal representatives who fail to complete their duties and fulfill the legal obligations required by Georgia probate law can be held liable for their actions. As an experienced Atlanta, Georgia Probate Attorney, I have handled countless probate disputes where personal representatives were accused of wrongdoing. In some cases there was true intent to deceive, while in other cases an innocent lack of understanding of the duties caused the issue. Either way, the personal representative can be held legally responsible.

Because the administrative tasks of Georgia executors and administrators are so complex, a North Georgia probate attorney can be retained to mitigate liability. An attorney will assist and guide personal representatives in their duties, drafting legal documents and ensuring that court deadlines are met. Besides protecting against personal liability, a GA estate proceeding lawyer should be retained to keep the probate process moving forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. Probate proceedings that are lengthy usually involve disputes or litigation between interested parties. And litigation costs the estate money, which is not in the best interest of the beneficiaries. So a personal representative that can administer the estate efficiently will ensure that the estate’s assets are intact and available for distribution when the proceedings conclude.

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October 19, 2012

PREVENTION OF DISPUTES IN GEORGIA PROBATE COURT BY THE EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR – FORESIGHT, DETECTION, AND AVOIDANCE

Being an executor or administrator of a Georgia estate in probate court is no easy undertaking. In fact, as executor or administrator of a GA estate, you are stepping into a position ripe, ready and waiting for conflict and disharmony to develop among all the interested parties to the estate, or worse yet, parties that will use their influence to control others who do have an interest in the estate. To say the least, these matters are already emotional from the death of a loved one and now, as executor or administrator, you are in charge managing the often-greedy heirs or beneficiaries of the Georgia estate. At the very least, this can add substantial administrative and bureaucratic responsibilities to your life as well as significant anxiety and stress. Furthermore, these oftentimes come at a time when you may already be grieving and have your own affairs to manage. In almost all cases, this is further complicated by the significant administrative duties imposed by law on a GA executor or administrator and the fiduciary duties and liabilities that come with this position.

In most GA estates, both executors and administrators are frequently relatives or close friends of the deceased person (the decedent). This would seemingly be a plus; however, more often it turns out to be the starting place of many arguments, endless wrangling, power struggles and ultimately many GA Probate disputes, will contests and litigation proceedings. Many of these GA estate disputes and much of this GA probate litigation stems from the fact that many of the other members contesting the actions and alleged breach of the personal representative’s fiduciary duties are also frequently, family members, relatives, or close friends of the deceased person (the decedent). In fact, it is often the case that these family members, relatives and close friends stand to inherit assets of the Georgia estate or have some interest in the outcome of the distribution of assets.

Perhaps most importantly, acting as a personal representative gives you a fiduciary duty to the estate -- that is, you are legally responsible for ensuring that your financial decisions are made with complete information, according to the estate's best interests and as expeditiously considering the circumstances. This is the same fiduciary duty given to leaders of corporations, and like those leaders, you are legally liable for any lawsuit alleging that you have not met your fiduciary duties. This includes personal liability, which is beyond assets of the estate and not limited in any way, shape or form to the assets of the estate.

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August 27, 2012

GEORGIA PROBATE HAS A LANGUAGE ALL ITS OWN

As an Atlanta Estate and Probate Attorney, many of my clients come to me for counsel during the difficult time following a loved one’s death. Confusion over how the Georgia probate process works and conflicts of interest between heirs and/or beneficiaries can make this process painful and complicated. During the Georgia probate process, assets from the estate will be distributed and any disputes between heirs or beneficiaries regarding estate assets will be resolved. The process of probate varies by state. In Georgia, the law is somewhat straightforward, but still extremely complicated for most any non-lawyer.

For a better understanding of the probate process, it is important to clarify a few commonly used terms:

Probate: the court proceedings that prove a Will to be the last valid Will of the decedent – it is also the process of administering the decedent’s estate

• Decedent: a person who has died

Estate: all of the decedent’s property, including personal property and real estate

• Heirs: in the absence of a Will, those persons who have a just claim to the property in the estate of the decedent

Beneficiary: a person who is identified in the Will to receive property from the decedent’s estate

• Will: a signed, legal document that states how the decedent wishes to distribute his property after death

• Testate: when a person dies and did write a Will

• Intestate: when the decedent did not write a Will, or when the Will is invalid

Executor: the person named in the Will to administer the decedent’s estate

• Administrator With Will Annexed: the person assigned by the court to administer the decedent’s estate when a Will exists, but has not named an Executor, or in the case that the Executor named is unwilling or unable to serve this duty

Administrator: when there is no Will, this is the person assigned by the court to administer the decedent’s estate

• Escheat: in the case that no heirs make claims to all or some part of the property in an estate, the state will receive the unclaimed property


Georgia probate proceedings usually are held in the Georgia county where the decedent permanently resided at the time of death. The county probate court will verify that the will presented in the proceedings is valid and that it is the last will that was written by the decedent. Once the will is verified, or in a case where there is no will, the probate court will oversee the distribution of the estate’s assets. When the decedent dies with a will, the estate will be administered in accordance with the decedent’s wishes that are expressed in the will. Should the decedent die without a will, Georgia’s Intestacy Statutes provide the scheme for distribution of estate assets. This usually means that the surviving spouse and children will receive the percentages of property first, followed by parents, siblings, and other family members.

The time that the probate process takes can run between seven or eight months for simple estates, to several years for more complex estates. During the process, the executor or administrator will identify the assets in the estate, perform an appraisal of those assets and pay any debts and taxes owed by the estate. Only after these steps are completed can the remaining property be distributed to the heirs and/or beneficiaries. Disputes between the parties involved over how these duties are performed will lengthen the process. The normal expenses incurred in probate, including the payment of debts and taxes, are paid out of the estate’s assets. Legal fees are also usually paid from estate assets.

The clarity with which a will is written will affect the duration and outcome of the process. Working with a qualified Georgia Estate lawyer to define exactly how your estate’s assets will be distributed is critical. If you are named as Executor or Administrator of an estate, a lawyer can explain your duties under Georgia Probate Law, help you fill out court forms and send the required probate notices. An attorney can also help you to meet all court deadlines. When issues between heirs and/or beneficiaries seem likely, or when they do come up, an experienced Probate litigation lawyer should be consulted so that delays in the proceedings, and additional costs, can be avoided.

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August 8, 2012

GEORGIA PROBATE LAWS ENFORCED PER O.C.G.A. [SECTION] § 53-7-54?

The Will Contest and Litigation Lawyers at, Adams Libby, LLC are skilled, experienced and resourceful. We have seen a steady increase in the rise of Georgia probate law based claims against Georgia Probate Court appointed executors for inventory and accounting, removal, money damages, and more. Georgia probate court executors have significant liability by assuming this position.

To the contrary, Georgia heir and beneficiaries have significant rights to know the what, where, when, and how of the estate's status. They also have the right to force the executor to compile and Georgia estate inventory and accounting even if this is specifically not required by the will. The Georgia estate executor can incur personal liability if money or assets can not be accounted for and will likely incur personal liability for these monies and assets.

The basic remedies against Georgia Probate Court appointed executors can be found in The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“O.C.G.A.”) § 53-7-54, which reads as follows:

(a) If a personal representative or temporary administrator commits a breach of fiduciary duty or threatens to commit a breach of fiduciary duty, a beneficiary of a testate estate or heir of an intestate estate shall have a cause of action:

(1) To recover damages;

(2) To compel the performance of the personal representative´s or temporary administrator´s duties;

(3) To enjoin the commission of a breach of fiduciary duty;

(4) To compel the redress of a breach of fiduciary duty by payment of money or otherwise;

(5) To appoint another personal representative or temporary administrator to take possession of the estate property and administer the estate;

(6) To remove the personal representative or temporary administrator; and

(7) To reduce or deny compensation to the personal representative or temporary administrator.

(b) When estate assets are misapplied and can be traced in the hands of persons affected with notice of misapplication, a trust shall attach to the assets.

(c) The provision of remedies for breach of fiduciary duty by this Code section does not prevent resort to any other appropriate remedy provided by statute or common law.

Even if you follow the necessary probate steps, there are times when you can find yourself involved in an Atlanta probate dispute or estate dispute. Some of these situations include, but are not limited to:

• Breach of Fiduciary Duty
• Interference with Inheritance
• Fraudulent Conveyance

• Misappropriation of funds, estate assets, estate inventory

• Self-dealing
• Conversion
• Negligence
• Accounting Claims
• And more
As an Atlanta Lawyer Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyer, I know that when a loved one has passed away, the process of going through the legal system to determine and distribute their estate can be a tremendous challenge. This process, for better or worse, is known as the Georgia probate process (commonly referred to as “probate”). Whether there is a will or not the Georgia court will assess the properties and pay off any outstanding debts before distributing the estate. First, however, they must determine if the will is valid, before assessing the amount of debts or taxes owed. Fortunately, the State of Georgia Probate Courts have made the probate process very easy and relatively inexpensive. Nevertheless, it is prudent to retain an experienced Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyer or Atlanta, Georgia estate attorney to ensure the probate process proceeds smoothly, fairly, and without incident.

NOTE – WHEN THE ADMINISTRATOR OR EXECUTOR RETAINS A GEORGIA PROBATE LAWYER TO REPRESENT THE ESTATE, THIS IS USUALLY AN ESTATE EXPENSE:

THE DOWNSIDE TO NOT RETAINING AN ATLANTA ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT THE EXECUTOR CAN BE DEVASTATING INCLUDING REMOVAL, PERSONAL LIABILITY, LOSS OF EXECUTOR FEES, CREATING ENEMIES IN YOUR FAMILY, AND PROMOTING SIGNIFICANT FAMILY DISHARMONY.

HAVING AN ATLANTA ATTORNEY REMOVES MUCH OF THE LIABILITY PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES HAVE, PREVENTS ATTACKS ON THE EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR BY YOUR OWN FAMILY, AND DISSOLVES THE PERCEPTION OF BIAS, SELF-DEALING, AND MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUND, CONVERSION OF ESTATE ASSETS, AND MISMANAGEMENT OF ESTATE ASSETS. FAMILY HARMONY IS PRESERVED AS WELL. I DO NOT THINK YOU CAN PUT A PRICE OR VALUE ON THIS.

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August 3, 2012

FIND A PROBATE LAWYER IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA WHO CAN UNCOVER ADMINISTRATOR AND EXECUTOR SELF-DEALING BY DEMANDING A “PETITION FOR INVENTORY AND ACCOUNTING” - GEORGIA ESTATE BENEFICIARY AND HEIRS CAN PROMPTLY DEMAND ANSWERS

I have experienced first-hand the wide range of time frames and seemingly, intolerable leeway a Georgia executor or administrator has to carry out the fiduciary duties imposed pursuant to TITLE 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated entitled “WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES”. Under this Title 53, the Georgia Probate Court likely will allow the any GA executor or administrator varying degrees of time in which to undertake the Georgia estate administration process in any decedent’s estate. Any acting executor or administrator who is qualified and in charge of an estate in Georgia Probate court has approximately six (6) months to create an inventory of all of the estate's assets, liabilities, debts and other relevant estate matters, and issue and provide any beneficiary or heir of the Georgia estate an inventory and accounting. Moreover, this seemingly lenient rule of Georgia Probate Law is oftentimes waived by an unknowing estate beneficiary or heir if they “sign off”, or “consent” to giving the estate executor or administrator this leeway.

The unknowing beneficiary or heir oftentimes signs documents as requested by the Georgia executor or administrator, or their GA Probate Lawyer, without knowing or asking what these documents mean. It is essential for any beneficiary or heir to understand the impact signing any “release” will have on them in knowing and understanding the estate's assets, liabilities, debts and other relevant estate matters such as the status of the estate proceedings or their inheritance. As a rule of Georgia Probate Law, you should be very cautious about any documents you sign. This is especially true if it is requested you sign anything having to do with an estate under which you are a beneficiary or heir, where you are requested to sign in front of a witness or witnesses or in the presence of a Georgia Notary Public. Under Georgia Probate law, you are deemed to have read, understood and presumably had the right to consult with a Georgia Probate Attorney or Atlanta, Georgia Probate law firm concerning the meaning and impact of these documents. In my Probate Law practice, I often see beneficiaries and heirs unknowingly waive important rights to their detriment. Moreover, many times it becomes a “he says she says” argument as to whether the beneficiary or heir knew or understood the dire impact of the documents she or he signed or if any explanation was given at all.

If you are a beneficiary or heir under a Georgia Probate Court estate, you should consult an experienced Atlanta Probate Law Firm before signing anything. As an experienced Georgia probate lawyer, I can not tell you how many time clients come into our Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia Probate Law Firm after it is to late and the client-beneficiary or client-heir has given up many important rights they would have been entitled to had they not signed important empowering estate documents to their detriment.

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July 27, 2012

ESTATE LAWYER'S TOOL TO STOP FINANCIAL ABUSE AND THEFT FROM THE ELDERLY AND/OR INCAPACITATED – SEEK HELP IN “GREENWAY v. HAMILTON ET AL.; CASE NO. S06A0050. JUNE 26, 2006”

While we focus on Obama Care, health care reform, and whether social security will stay properly funded to keep up with payouts to the ever-increasing elderly retirees, it seems the financial abuse of the elderly and incapacitated has reached new highs. Most Atlanta, Georgia estate lawyers agree that in “looting the estate situations”, Adult Protective Services is not a preliminary answer, but can be of great service in many instances once the financial abuse is uncovered. The answer to this problem is action by you, the family and friends of the financially abused elderly and/or incapacitated persons.

Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyers should not only represent clients in Georgia probate cases after a loved one passes, but should be ready to intervene and stop the financial abuse of loved and/or incapacitated persons before they pass if they are the subject of looting, theft, elder financial abuse, etc. I have termed it “looting of the estate” is some instances even though the elderly person has not passed, and an estate has not yet been created. I believe that Greenway v. Hamilton is one remedy, but I think what is better is to catch the thieves during the life of the elderly and/or incapacitated and hopefully before too much money/assets have been stolen. These thieves are abundant and as easily found as your closest family member.

Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyers oftentimes practice Georgia probate law, but also work in estate administration, estate litigation, Georgia guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, and misuse/abuse of powers of attorney and just plain conversion of assets taken from the elderly and/or incapacitated. It seems lately I have noticed a disturbing trend and I want to be outspoken about it so that you, the reader and be on the lookout for financial elder abuse. It takes many forms, and usually is carried out by someone who is close to the loved one. I hope that more attorneys will look to GREENWAY v. HAMILTON. GREENWAY v. HAMILTON et al. No. S06A0050. JUNE 26, 2006, to bring many of these “thieves” to justice. I also help it will raise awareness of what may be happening will our loved ones try to enjoy their last years. Frankly, what I see happening more and more often is quite disturbing. That being theft from the elderly using powers of attorney, looting, conversion, undue influence for gain, and more.

This is in every way shape and for, FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE and must be stopped! Here are some of the forms this looting of elderly assets takes place:
• Using a power of attorney to control assets of an elderly and/or incapacitated person, but use their monies for other purposes than the health, care, welfare, and well-being of the elderly and/or incapacitated person.

• Using monies of an elderly and/or incapacitated person for their own purposes and not for the caretaking of the elderly and/or incapacitated person. Oftentimes, the elderly and/or incapacitated person can do little to stop these thieves or do not understand the scam that is being perpetrated on them. Many factors contribute to this. Mostly is the lack of capacity elderly or incapacitated person suffer from prevents them from understanding what is happening.

Looting a loved one’s estate is a serious legal matter and one that should not be taken lightly. While using your influence to affect the estate and the will are one thing, deliberately forging documents or ignoring a will and testament’s wishes is another. While both are against the law, looting the estate is significantly more heinous and carries federal penalties, as well as, civil penalties.

When a person is ill or too incapacitated to care for him or herself, they depend upon the kindness and care of others to help them in their final years. Unfortunately, many people prey on these individuals and take advantage of them during this time. When a person deliberately ignores his loved one’s wishes as laid out in their last will and testament and disposes of the money and estate for their own personal gain, then they may be guilty of looting the estate.

If you are the heir to an estate, it is important to pay attention to the things that are going on throughout your loved one’s life. Make sure you regularly visit and remind your loved one to show you all documents BEFORE he or she signs them. If there is a will and testament already in place, make sure your loved one knows not to make any changes before consulting with you and your family. In addition to talking to your loved one, you should also talk to family members and other heirs to ensure that everyone involved agrees about your loved one’s care and treatment.
If you or someone in your family believes that your loved one may be the victim of estate looting or undue influence, it is important to contact an Atlanta probate and estate dispute attorney immediately. Your Atlanta, Georgia estate attorney can help you ensure that your loved one’s estate is protected from all types of fraud, looting, and greed.

CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY UPON FINDING THEFT OF WOULD BE ESTATE ASSETS FROM THE ELDERLY AND/OR INCAPACITATED - Adams Libby, LLC ATLANTA PROBATE ATTORNEYS, GEORGIA ELDER ABUSE LAWYER, ATLANTA, GEORGIA ESTATE AND GUARDIANSHIP LAWYERS - MAIN OFFICE IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA-BUCKHEAD NUMBER: (404) 467-8611 OR TOLL FREE: 1-877-412-3267. You may also choose to use our "CONFIDENTIAL CONTACT US FORM"

If you feel you or your loved one is the victim of “looting of the estate”, immediately contact the Atlanta, Georgia estate lawyers at Adams Libby, LLC. Our experienced Atlanta estate lawyers can stop the looting of the estate. Our Atlanta, Georgia estate attorneys have a number of methods. Most notably is bringing the looting or stealing of what will be estate assets to the attention of those carrying out this egregious act. This is conversion and is stealing, theft by taking, and/or conversion anyway you portray it.

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July 25, 2012

THE CHALLENGING ROLE OF EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR IN GEORGIA PROBATE PROCEEDINGS

In my Atlanta, Georgia Probate Law Firm, I have represented many clients who require legal counsel well into probate proceedings. While, this is can be due to a lack of knowledge of the Georgia probate process, it can also stem from a number of other reasons such as negligent management of estate assets, self dealing, misappropriation of estate assets, or even intentional mismanagement of estate affairs. Over the course of my legal career, I have decided the list of reasons is endless.

Many of my clients are Georgia executors and administrators who have been assigned the difficult task of distributing the deceased’s estate. Confusion surfaces as these individuals face a complex set of fiduciary responsibilities (commonly referred to as fiduciary duties under Georgia law) and legal tasks, including the filing of legal documents to strict deadlines and other stringent legal requirements. Retaining legal advice from a Georgia probate law firm early on in this process is essential to successfully and efficiently collecting, managing, and distributing the estate’s assets.

Identifying, finding and gathering assets is one task that a Georgia executor or administrator is responsible for during the probate process. Transferring assets into the estate and assuring that payments are made on behalf of the estate are also duties that must be handled. In the process, it is the executor or administrator’s fiduciary duty to keep beneficiaries, heirs and any interested parties informed of certain milestones. In addition, court deadlines and the filing of legal documentation can be confusing. If any of these duties are incorrectly handled, despite the best intentions of the executor or administrator, disputes can develop between the respective parties, which have an interest in the estate. In a worst-case scenario, the executor or administrator can be held personally liable for mistakes make during the proceedings.

Without experienced counsel from a Georgia probate litigation attorney, probate proceedings can not only cause infighting among interested parties, but also slow the process down to the point that the proceedings drag on for an extended period. As time elapses and infighting intensifies, litigation becomes more likely. Heirs, beneficiaries, and interested parties usually cause the initial disputes. Oftentimes, Georgia probate disputes are sent to mediation ordered by the Georgia probate court. This has proven an effective way to resolve minor disputes without court proceedings or litigation. As executor or administrator, the nature of your primary fiduciary duty is to protect the estate’s assets and act in the best interests of all interested parties to the estate. So working to avoid, mitigate, and mediate conflict between parties is crucial and will speed up the process and likely keep you distanced from any breach of fiduciary duty accusations.

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July 23, 2012

DURING GEORGIA PROBATE PROCEEDINGS, PROMPT REMOVAL OF UNFIT ESTATE EXECUTORS AND ADMINISTRATORS PREVENTS FRAUD AND SAVES ON LEGAL FEES

Atlanta Lawyersrecommend that clients have a lawyer prepare their will, powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents. The existence of a will makes the distribution of estate assets run more smoothly during probate proceedings and can significantly reduce disputes between heirs and beneficiaries. When a will is written, an executor can be named who will administer the estate. In some cases, when no executor is named in the will, or if there is no will, the court will assign an administrator. In all of these scenarios, disputes can arise surrounding the choice of the executor or administrator.

Disputes over executors and administrators
, which cause unneeded stress during probate proceedings, occur because the role of estate executors and administrators is so important. This is a fiduciary role in which the person administering the estate has very specific legal and financial responsibilities. Because of the serious nature of these responsibilities, there are times when the person chosen is regarded by the heirs and beneficiaries as being an inappropriate choice. Executors, as well as court assigned administrators, have to operate in a levelheaded, responsible manner during the process and they need to be able to understand the mechanisms of Georgia probate law. Besides possessing a calm disposition and having knowledge of the proceedings, they also need to be trustworthy and honest and have the best interests of all parties at heart. Without these traits, a poorly chosen executor or administrator can cause havoc in the proceedings. Fortunately, Georgia law does provide heirs and beneficiaries with a mechanism to remove executors and administrators.

Georgia probate law allows for a formal objection to be filed that removes the person picked to administer the estate. When the heirs or beneficiaries recognize that the person assigned to administer the estate is unfit, it is always preferable to remove them immediately when probate proceedings are initiated. By acting promptly, before any breach of the fiduciary duties can occur, costs associated with fraudulent actions and any ensuing legal fees can be avoided. Of course there are cases in which the person chosen initially appears to be adequate for the responsibilities, but later acts inappropriately, is dishonest or irresponsible. In those instances, it is possible to sue for breach of fiduciary duties, including, but not limited to, the removal and replacement of the administrator or executor. This can be done once a breach of duties occurs, or if a breach has not yet occurred, once there is evidence that the person intends to violate their fiduciary duties.

In any probate proceedings it is important to secure the counsel of a qualified and experienced Atlanta, Georgia probate attorney. Individuals acting without proper legal counsel can unknowingly file false or groundless petitions, such as petitions to remove a person assigned to administer an estate. These frivolous petitions carry specific penalties under Georgia probate law. For that reason, it is especially wise to always seek legal counsel to avoid these types of issues, as well as to ensure the most successfully outcome of the probate process.

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July 23, 2012

ATLANTA LAWYERS PREPARE STRATEGIES TO DEFEND AGAINST WILL CONTESTS – WE OCCUPY BOTH SIDES OF COURTROOM AND USE THIS EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR BENEFIT

The Atlanta lawyers at Adams Libby, LLC are experienced in defending clients in disputes over the provisions of wills and administration of estate assets. Parties that can be defended in a will contest include the estate, beneficiaries, heirs or personal representatives. But it is usually heirs or beneficiaries who challenge a will, especially if they are slated to receive less from the estate than what they had originally anticipated. Once notice of the death or petition to begin probate proceedings is served, any parties interested in filing a will contest may come forward. Adams Libby, LLC files Georgia Will Contests Caveat Petitions and just as often, their Atlanta Office defends Will Contests. As such, whatever role we engage on behalf of our client in will contest litigation, you can be assured, we know what opposing counsel is thinking and what their objectives are. Oftentimes, our Atlanta, Georgia will contest defense lawyers use tactics such as mediation, enhanced discovery, to catch opposing counsel of guard and to throw the theory of their case off balance, oftentimes, making them start over or think again about whether contesting the will in question.

Many conditions can provoke a Georgia will contest, including:
• The Testator’s Mental Capacity - if the deceased was not considered to be of sound mind and body when the will was executed

• The Imposition of Undue Influence on the Testator - if a third party a suspected of coercing the testator into executing a will that was not his true intention

• An Improperly Executed Will - if the will was not signed under the proper procedures, for example signed in the presence of the correct number of witnesses and in front of a notary public, or if any witnesses to the will are named as beneficiaries in the will

• Rights of a Surviving Spouse or Minor Child - the law mandates a statutory minimum of the estate to be awarded to a surviving spouse or minor child

• The Existence of Joint Accounts - joint accounts may have been set up for convenience only and may not express the wishes of the decedent to pass those assets on to the surviving account holder

• Poor Inventory and Accounting of Estate Assets - beneficiaries and heirs may question how the personal representative identifies, values and accounts for estate assets

• Unusual Gifts Made Before Death - any questionable gifts made by the decedent before death may cause heirs and/or beneficiaries to contest the will

• Breach of Fiduciary Duty by the Personal Representative - wrongdoing or negligent behavior during the administration of the estate


For testators, the key to reducing will contests is the development of a good strategy of asset distribution. It is important to remember that the legal costs of will contests are paid for out of estate assets. And besides the monetary cost, these disputes can delay the distribution of assets for months and even years. Because will contests are not easily won, Georgia personal representatives sometimes offer a monetary settlement to the challenger to minimize the cost and time that will be required to close the estate. Gifting portions of your estate before death will minimize the assets to be distributed through probate, thereby reducing the chance of will contests. Creating a trust is another way to leave assets outside of probate. Upon death, the assets in a trust are transferred to beneficiaries outside of probate, and as such will not be scrutinized by the parties involved in the probate proceedings.

At Adams Libby, LLC our attorneys are qualified in all areas of probate court litigation, probate court law law, and will contest law. Contact us today to discuss how to leave a lasting legacy that honors your wishes and protects your loved ones at (404) 467-8611 or 1-877-412-3267. We can also be contacted by sending us a confidential message through our “Contact Us” form on our website. The Firm’s main office is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.

July 17, 2012

ATLANTA ATTORNEY KEEPS THE GEORGIA COUNTY ESTATE EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR "IN CHECK" DURING GEORGIA ESTATE ADMINISTATION

As an Atlanta Lawyer that practices Atlanta (Fulton County) Probate Litigation, I see many clients who need guidance in the complicated area of probate proceedings. Because the death of a family member is such an emotional and difficult time for all involved, it is important to have legal safeguards in place that not only protect heirs and beneficiaries during this delicate period, but that also protect executors and administrators. When a will exists and an executor has been named in the will, it is not uncommon for conflicts to develop between the executor and the heirs and beneficiaries. When there is no will, it is also possible for conflicts to emerge between the administrator and the heirs. Both parties, those administering the estate and those inheriting the estate, can have valid legal concerns.

Even when the estate is being administered in a responsible manner, because emotions run high in these situations, heirs and beneficiaries can begin to imagine that the executor or administrator is taking advantage of the situation. And executors and administrators can feel that, despite their hard work administering the estate, they are wrongly accused of inappropriate behavior. The good news is that by inserting some legal checks and balances into the process, these situations can be avoided or, if they do occur, resolved. One example of a useful legal instrument that helps diffuse these conflicts is the petition for inventory and accounting. Even though the executor or administrator appears to have absolute power to manage the estate, that person is in fact bound by a fiduciary duty. As such, the person administering the estate is required to handle all related duties in the best interest of all parties. When the duties carried out fall under suspicion, heirs and beneficiaries can make a legally binding request for an inventory and accounting of all estate assets. It is important to note that in Georgia sometimes heirs and beneficiaries waive their right to petition for inventory and accounting, but when a conflict arises they can legally renounce the waiver and the petition can move forward.

In some cases, conflicts surface when executors and administrators can have difficulty providing an inventory of assets in a timely manner. It is precisely this situation that can make it seem that there is an abuse of power on their part. But there are instances that can cause undue skepticism and one of these is when estate assets fall into categories that are difficult to identify. One type of asset that can prove very difficult to discern is intellectual property, such as artistic works, inventions or patents. For this reason it is important to retain the service of an experienced and qualified probate lawyer who can assist in identifying all tangible and non-traditional assets and protect the interests of all parties involved. Whichever side you find yourself on in probate proceedings, as an executor or administrator or as an heir or beneficiary, you need to be aware of the legal options, rights and duties that apply to you and seek the support of legal counsel.

Continue reading "ATLANTA ATTORNEY KEEPS THE GEORGIA COUNTY ESTATE EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR "IN CHECK" DURING GEORGIA ESTATE ADMINISTATION" »

July 15, 2012

UNDUE INFLUENCE CASE AND WILL CONTESTS IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA, INCREASE SEEN

As an Atlanta Lawyers; Especially Atlanta Will Challenge Lawyers, I have seen the number of cases on the rise. As an Atlanta, Georgia Probate Litigation lawyer, I have represented many clients in different types of will contests. Especially common are the cases that involve undue influence in the writing of wills. When undue influence is found to have played a role in the writing of the will, then the court can determine that the will is null and void.

Undue influence occurs when an act takes place that overcomes the victim’s free will. Undue influence is most likely when there is a confidential relationship between those involved and when one of the parties is of greater mental capacity. The confidential nature of the relationship and ability of one party to exert influence over the other party due to a superior intellect are the key factors that allow the manipulation to go unnoticed.

Many cases of undue influence occur between parents and children. When a close relationship exists between one child and the parent, it is possible for the child to manipulate the parent into signing a Georgia will that favors that particular child. It is also possible for the influence to come from outside the family, for example from a hired caregiver who spends large amounts of time with the elderly person.

When faced with a case of undue influence regarding a will, the Georgia probate court will examine the mental state of the deceased at the time that the will was executed. Evidence of mental or physical coercion is required. Because direct evidence is difficult to collect (since the victim is deceased), the courts will rely on circumstantial evidence for proof. The court will try to determine if:

1) the decedent was easily influenced, due to age, health or general mental state
2) the person suspected of undue influence had an opportunity to coerce or manipulate the victim
3) the person suspected of undue influence had the motive or disposition to influence the victim
4) the person suspected of undue influence was actively involved in creating the will
5) the will appears to have been influenced

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July 14, 2012

THE BEST ATLANTA PROBATE LITIGATION ATTORNEYS -- HOW TO FIND THEM

The Atlanta, Georgia Attorneys at my firm are receiving more and more calls from persons interested in finding out whether they need a Georgia probate attorney to represent them in a Georgia probate ‘inheritance’ or ‘estate’ administration proceeding, dispute or litigation. Our Firm also receives an equal number of calls from executors or administrators of Georgia estates seeking experienced local Atlanta, Georgia, probate litigation lawyers to guide them through the trials and tribulations of being the executor or administrator of a Georgia estate. As an experienced Georgia probate lawyer, I have found that chances are if you think you need a Georgia probate lawyer, you almost certainly do.

The Atlanta probate litigation lawyers at our Firm meet weekly to discuss the status of the cases our Firm is handling, discuss strategies which are best for our clients, and to bounce ideas and other ways to further our clients’ best interests, we have also begun discussing and sharing ideas and methods in order to be the best Georgia probate lawyers for our clients. This process involves analyzing not only what our Firm’s Georgia probate dispute attorneys are doing in their cases, but also how opposing counsel are challenging and standing up for their clients against us. Since we found some common similarities between effective probate litigation attorneys, we decided to share them with you in your search for a qualified probate attorney.

Our analysis is as follows:

• Find Georgia probate attorneys who can handle the stress of a Georgia probate case. A strong lawyer can help you through this emotional struggle and take much of the stress off you. If you are seeking out Georgia probate litigation lawyers in order to find one to represent you, it is likely because a relative or someone close to you has died, you stand something to gain something from the person who has died (this person known under Georgia law as the "decedent"), or a combination of both of these factors. Usually these factors range from monetary or other gain to peace of mind that the loved one’s death is handled properly and peacefully. As such, this likely is a difficult process for you and emotionally draining. More often than not, there is relentless intra-family fighting and disharmony. Again, look for a lawyer can help you through this emotional struggle and take much of the stress off you.

Find Georgia probate lawyers who are accessible to you, care about you and your case, and who you feel will your case for you by achieving your goals.

• Find Georgia probate attorneys who willingly give you their contact information, such as cell number, and other information. While you likely will not call this lawyer on his cell too often, this is a good indicator of how much dedication the lawyer has and how much he cares about providing exceptional service to you. Nevertheless, you know he or she will be available if you are in a bind.

• Find Georgia probate lawyers who can handle both transactional probate matters and probate litigation matters. Remember, a Georgia probate litigation case still has the transactional and administrative aspects to it. Moreover, these aspects are likely to be more convoluted and complicated. Thus, you need a probate lawyer that can handle any matters that come his or her way, whether they are transactional or litigation based. In addition, a lawyer who knows both transactional probate matters as well as probate litigation matters almost assuredly will have the upper hand over opposing counsel.

• Find the Georgia probate lawyers who regularly handle probate, trusts and estate cases, but also know about other areas of the law, such as real estate, business and taxation. Georgia probate estate matters likely consist of most of the decedent holdings and they likely will involve a host of legal areas. In contrast, some of the decedent’s holdings may pass “outside” of the decedent’s estate and the extra knowledge that your Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyers may have, will serve you well.

Continue reading "THE BEST ATLANTA PROBATE LITIGATION ATTORNEYS -- HOW TO FIND THEM" »

July 13, 2012

ATLANTA LAWYER REALIZES "ESTATE ADMINISTRATION" IS THE INHERIT FIGHTING BETWEEN EXECUTORS, ADMINISTRATORS, HEIRS AND BENEFICIARIES

As an Atlanta Georgia Lawyer practicing in the Atlanta area, I find I am frequently asked by my clients, who are executors and administrators, about the best way to handle and manage the heirs and beneficiaries of the Georgia probate estate. These questions often involve legal and moral matters concerning executor and administrator fiduciary duties, responsibilities and the rights various parties to a Georgia estate administration proceeding.

The fact is most Georgia probate and estate administration questions consistently arise from fighting between the executors, administrators, heirs and beneficiaries. This fighting is more the standard rather than the exception and commonplace in many estate administration proceedings. Moreover, if you are executor or administrator of an Georgia probate estate proceeding, you should seriously consider retaining an experienced Georgia probate attorney to guide you in carrying out your fiduciary duties and protect you from aggressive and vindictive heirs and beneficiaries who may be out to cause you trouble.

Additionally, in my Atlanta, Georgia, probate law firm, I receive an equal if not greater number of questions from my clients who are heirs and beneficiaries of a Georgia estate administration proceeding. The most common questions they ask concern the actions of the executor and administrator and center on what these fiduciaries can and cannot do, what constitutes a breach of their fiduciary duty, and what legal actions can and should be taken. What is more, heirs and beneficiaries who ask these difficult questions and seek to understand estate administration proceedings should be commended. All too often, the Georgia executor and administrator will abuse their position of power and use it for their own gain and self-dealing or that of preferred family members, friends or co-conspirators. Other common questions concern timing of estate matters and events as well as the rights of estate creditors and debtors as well as a host of other parties.

Having practiced as a Georgia fiduciary attorney for a considerable length of time, I am quite sure that nothing makes people act more unreasonable or irrational than the combination of the acquisition of monies and other assets, in combination with the death of a family member. The single most common question without doubt is whether the executor or administrator is acting in accordance with Georgia fiduciary law.

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April 10, 2012

ATLANTA, GEORGIA PROBATE, WILLS, TRUST & ESTATE ATTORNEY GIVES ADVICE ON HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT GEORGIA PROBATE LAWYER

I am an Atlanta, Georgia probate attorney who practices Georgia probate law in the metro Atlanta and North Georgia area. I also own a well-known and successful Atlanta, Georgia probate law firm, which was founded in 1999, and has become a well-known full service Georgia probate, wills, trusts, and estates law firm.

My name is Duncan H. Adams. My Firm, Adams Libby, LLC, has been immeasurably successful and grown immensely. Thus, I speak from experience when I write from you today to give you some tips on finding a Georgia probate lawyer who fits your needs and is right for you. On another note, if you would like to call me to get some more personal advice, you can reach me at our Main Office by calling (404) 467-8611, toll free at 1-877-412-3267, or sending us a confidential web inquiry through our “Contact Us” forms, which are found on the firm websites, blogs, and throughout the internet. I begin by offering you the following:

If someone close to you has passed away, you may find yourself wondering if you need a probate lawyer. During this stressful and highly emotional time, it may be difficult to spend time choosing the right attorney for your case, but the extra time and effort you put into find the right lawyer can make all the difference when settling matters of probate.

Moreover, It is my general thought that unless you have significant legal training in the area of Georgia wills, trusts, and estates, you should start from day one with a a Georgia probate lawyer on retainer.

In general, there are two types of Georgia probate lawyers:

Georgia Transactional/Administration Lawyers—attorneys who mainly handle the administrative side of probate matters

Georgia Probate litigators—attorneys who represent clients who are involved in probate or estate disputes

One of the first steps towards choosing the right Atlanta probate lawyer is to decide which type of Atlanta, Georgia probate attorney best suits your needs. Are you involved in a Georgia probate dispute or trust litigation matter? Alternatively, do you simply need an attorney to help you and your family with the distribution and administration of the estate?

When choosing the right Atlanta probate attorney, here are a few questions you should ask:

• Does the Atlanta probate attorney specialize in your type of probate situation?

• Are there good reviews supporting the Georgia probate law firm or Georgia probate lawyer you choose? Did your attorney come recommended by anyone you know?

• Did you contact the Georgia State Bar Association to determine if the lawyer is in good standing?

• Is the Atlanta probate lawyer specialized in Georgia probate law?

• How much experience does this lawyer have in litigation or probate administration?

• What are their fees and how are fees determined?

• Is this Atlanta probate lawyer easy to talk with and does he or she discuss all of your options with you?

• Did your Atlanta probate lawyer provide you with a copy of the retainer agreement?

The Atlanta, Georgia probate attorneys at Adams Libby, LLC are experienced in all facets of Georgia probate administration, mediation, disputes, and litigation. If you feel that you are being denied your rights as a beneficiary or heir, need assistance carrying out your fiduciary duties as executor or administrator, being suspected undeservedly of undue influence in a Georgia will contest, or are experiencing a number of other difficulties that arise in Georgia probate proceedings, contact us to discuss a strategy that protects your interests. Our Atlanta probate lawyers understand that by its very nature, this is a difficult and stressful time on all parties having an interest in the probate proceedings.

We can be reached at (404) 467-8611 or 1-877-412-3267. You may also send us a confidential message through our “Contact Us” form on our website. The Firm’s main office is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta near the intersection of Peachtree and Piedmont Roads. Our Main Office is on the street level with free covered parking and security on site.

March 6, 2012

THE GEORGIA PROBATE PROCESS ALLOWS THE EXECUTOR (PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE) TO RECEIVE STATUTORY FEES

Personal representatives of Georgia estates perform a complicated task that carries a serious fiduciary responsibility and is closely monitored by the probate court system. Personal representatives, also known as executors and administrators, are either named in a will or appointed by the probate court to administer the assets in a decedent’s estate. Georgia probate law allows for personal representatives to hire legal counsel related to the Georgia probate process and also permits a fee to be paid for the work on the estate. The fee is a percentage based on the value of assets identified by the personal representative as estate property, the income generated by the assets in the estate during the probate administration process and the value of assets that are distributed by the estate at the end of the Georgia probate administration proceedings.

Georgia Code - Wills, Trusts & Estates - Title 53, Section 53-6-60
(b) If the personal representative´s compensation is not specified in the will or any separate written agreement, the personal representative for services rendered shall be entitled to compensation equal to:

(1) Two and one-half percent commission on all sums of money received by the personal representative on account of the estate, except on money loaned by and repaid to the personal representative, and 2 1/2 percent commission on all sums paid out by the personal representative, either for debts, legacies, or distributive shares;

(2) Ten percent commission on the amount of interest made if, during the course of administration, the personal representative shall receive interest on money loaned by the personal representative in that capacity and shall include the same on the return to the probate court so as to become chargeable therewith as a part of the corpus of the estate;

To properly understand the exact value of the assets and what percentage of these items is allowed as a statutory fee, it is important to consult with an experienced Atlanta, Georgia probate attorney. A probate attorney can also help the personal representative fulfill the fiduciary responsibility that is inherent in the task of administering an estate. The personal representative is required by law to fairly perform the duties and failure to do so can result in a lawsuit against the executor or administrator. Even if the failure to perform the duties properly is due to an innocent lack of understanding by the personal representative, he can be held legally responsible. Hiring a Georgia estate lawyer will not only limit the personal liability of the representative, but will also help preserve estate assets and keep the beneficiaries and heirs satisfied so that the estate can be administered as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, in my Atlanta, Georgia Probate Law firm many personal representatives only come to me for help once problems have surfaced during the probate process. In most of these cases, by the time I get involved a lot of damage has already been done that results in a loss of estate assets and a break down in the relationship between the personal representative and the Georgia beneficiaries and heirs. Most times these individuals are family members and, during the stress of the Georgia probate process, the conflict caused by innocent misunderstandings can permanently damage these precious relationships.

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December 20, 2011

PETITION FOR INVENTORY AND ACCOUNTING -- GEORGIA PROBATE LAWYERS CAN COMPEL PRODUCTION OF THIS DOCUMENT DESPITE A SIGNED WAIVER, OR LANGUAGE TO THE CONTRARY IN THE WILL

As an Atlanta, Georgia Petition for Inventory and Accounting Lawyer, I see many clients who have all but given up discovering what happened to the assets and monies of a Georgia Estate. They erroneously believe this because they have signed away their right to an Inventory and accounting. In the alternative, they believe they are not entitled to an Inventory and Accounting because the language in the will explicitly states one is not required. If this is your situation, you are in luck!

Georgia probate law provides that you can renounce your waiver to production of an Estate Petition for Inventory and Accounting in Georgia. Georgia law also states that language in a Georgia Will that an Estate Petition for Inventory and Accounting is not required to be produced is for convenience purposes. Any holding to the contrary on both of the above-referenced would be tantamount to a “license to steal” for any administrator, executor, or personal representative (Collectively referred to as “Fiduciary” or “Fiduciaries” of a Georgia Estate).

If properly requested, the Georgia Probate Court will issue a “Rule Nisi” (a “Court Order”) for the administrator, executor, or personal representative to appear in court at a formal hearing and state why an interested party’s request for a formal and complete “Petition for Inventory and Accounting” should not be produced. Guidance of an experienced Atlanta, Georgia probate lawyer is almost essential when undertaking this request in an estate proceeding.

It is important to enter into requesting a Petition for Inventory and Accounting appropriately. First, in my Atlanta, Georgia probate practice, I find it is a best practice to make a formal request on the administrator, executor, or personal representative through detailed demand letter sent to their counsel, or directly to the Fiduciary if they do not have counsel. In my numerous years of Georgia probate litigation experience, I have found that it is prudent to attempt to resolve the issue without court intervention. While necessary, I have found that such demand rarely satisfies the heir or beneficiaries making the request. Second, this demand will likely have a “knee-jerk” reaction causing the administrator, executor, or personal representative to cease any correspondence with the heir or beneficiary and remain silent. Furthermore, it oftentimes elicits the losing argument that the heir or beneficiary has waived their right to such and inventory or accounting by signing it away on the Estate’s “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration” issued to the Fiduciary. The other losing argument by the Fiduciary is that the language in the will explicitly states they are not required to give or prepare one. Again, these are both losing arguments. Do not be surprised if you see this argument made by an attorney representing the Fiduciary. This is a finite area of Georgia probate law and many non-probate lawyers are not privy to this rule. On another note, such requests should not be done to offend the Fiduciary, or for some other non-legal and legitimate reason. Remember, filing a Georgia Petition for Inventory and Accounting is tantamount to showing a lack of trust in the Fiduciary, questioning their moral principles, and making an implied statement that they have stolen, squandered, or abused estate assets. This is a serious accusation.

In some cases, conflicts surface when executors, administrators, or personal representatives can have difficulty providing an inventory of assets in a timely manner. It is precisely this situation that can make it seem that there is an abuse of power on their part. Conversely, many times executors, administrators, or personal representatives have breached their Fiduciary Duties. Under these circumstances, they are unable to provide an accurate inventory and accounting. This happens more often than one would like to think and seems to be happening more frequently in these tough economic times.

If you are an heir or beneficiary who feels the administrator, executor, or personal representative has breached their Fiduciary Duty, please do not hesitate to contact Our Firm. We will properly hold the Fiduciary accountable and do our best to return the estate to its previous condition or make the Fiduciary make equally satisfying amends. Many cases of Breach of Fiduciary Duty are serious and involve theft of estate assets, self-dealing, misappropriation of funds, and worse. For this reason, it is important for executors, administrators, or personal representatives (Fiduciaries) in this situation, to retain the service of an experienced and Georgia probate lawyer who can assist in identifying a breach of fiduciary duty, or just plain bad estate handling by the Fiduciary. In the latter case, it may be best to have this Fiduciary removed in favor of another.

Continue reading "PETITION FOR INVENTORY AND ACCOUNTING -- GEORGIA PROBATE LAWYERS CAN COMPEL PRODUCTION OF THIS DOCUMENT DESPITE A SIGNED WAIVER, OR LANGUAGE TO THE CONTRARY IN THE WILL" »

January 2, 2011

A GEORGIA PROBATE ATTORNEY CAN KEEP PEACE DURING GEORGIA PROBATE PROCEEDINGS

In my Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia, law firm, I have learned one of the most important abilities a probate lawyer can have, is to be able to keep the peace! In my Atlanta Probate Law Practice, one of the most common questions I am asked is, how to stop heirs and beneficiaries from fighting with executors and administrators. Usually this question comes from the executor or administrator whose life has been turned upside down by the demands of their Fiduciary Duty. Most executors and administrators want to get through the process as efficiently and quickly as possible in order to return to their normal daily life. But there are other reasons to keep the peace when acting as an executor or administrator.

By actively limiting conflict during the proceedings, it is true that the estate will be distributed faster, but it will also be administered with more assets intact. When conflict arises, litigation, or at least mediation, is not far behind. Probate mediation and litigation can cost precious time, not to mention monetary resources. This type of legal cost can come directly out of the assets of the estate, so with more time spent feuding, less money is available to distribute.

Besides the monetary and time issues, it is important to keep the wishes of the decedent in mind. I believe that most people write wills in part to limit infighting over estate assets. By maintaining a transparent process with the heirs and beneficiaries, conflict can be minimized and the deceased’s wishes can be honored more fully. By retaining the counsel of an experienced Georgia probate lawyer, an executor or administrator can perform the required fiduciary duties and properly keep beneficiaries and heirs informed while meeting all deadlines.

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October 1, 2010

AN ATL PROBATE LAWYERS CAN HELP YOU DISARM A SELF-DEALING OR DISHONEST EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR

Lawyers in my Atlanta, Georgia Estate Litigation law firm see cases of dishonest executors and administrators all too often. We have put these dishonest executors into two categories:

1). The Genuinely Accidental Act. If an executor or administrator wants to deceive beneficiaries and heirs, it is relatively easy for these individuals to take advantage of their role. For example, during difficult and emotional times after a loved one’s death, it is possible for administrators and executors to convince the other parties involved that they should sign away certain rights. Even though done unintentionally nor in planning to breach their fiduciary duties, executors and administrators can give the appearance of dishonesty through their lack of knowledge of their duties and responsibilities.

Still, as executors and administrators these individuals owe a fiduciary responsibility to beneficiaries, heirs and other interested parties. Unfortunately, most executors or administrators do not completely understand what their responsibilities are and how much control they have over the probate process. Oftentimes, an administrator or executor is a family member and may have reasons, either financial or emotional, for not being completely thorough during probate proceedings. This creates a situation where it is easy for the administrator or executor to appear as if any wrongful acts were intentional. After all, one duty of an executor or administrator is to know their duties.

2). The Purposeful Wrongful Act. If an executor or administrator wants to deceive heirs, beneficiaries, and interested third parties, it can be relatively easy. When no one is checking executors or administrators actions, these personal representatives can get away with quite of bit of malfeasance. These executors and administrators set out of a course of deception and pilfering from the estate. Moreover, these individual executors and administrator seem to insist they are correct, yet are unwilling to give any information, accounting, or inventory relating to the estate or their fiduciary roles. There are occasions where would be honest executors and administrators turn to the dark side becoming dishonest upon finding out how easy they it may be. Whether this occurs is usually determined by whether these executors or administrators have this deceptive and greedy soul and poor character existing in them. The Atlanta, Georgia estate attorneys at my Firm fear these are the most dangerous executors or administrators. This is because these are the persons or entities who usually get appointed by decedents because they are thought to be honest.

Under Georgia fiduciary law, you do have legal recourse to handle a dishonest executor or administrator who is stealing from, misrepresenting or otherwise defrauding an estate. While it is preferable to take preventative steps to block an unfit individual from being named as executor or administrator, more often it is only after probate is initiated and the executor or administrator begins to handle the estate that a problem is detected. In those cases, you can sue for breach of fiduciary duty. In fact you can sue if the executor or administrator merely threatens breach of fiduciary duty. If you are able to prove your case, the court may impose one or a combination of the following actions:

• Removal of the executor or administrator
• Replacement of the executor or administrator
• Require that the executor or administrator perform the assigned duties
• Require that the executor or administrator pay back stolen money or assets lost due to the breach
• Have the executor or administrator compensate the petitioner for losses
• Placement of wrongfully distributed estate assets into trust until it is decided who should receive the property
• Non-payment or reduced payment of statutory fees to the executor or administrator by the estate

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September 17, 2010

ATLANTA, GEORGIA PROBATE ATTORNEYS SEE BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY ACCUSATIONS ON THE RISE IN ESTATE ADMINISTRATION PROCEEDINGS

In my Firm’s Atlanta, Marietta, Buckhead, and Sandy Springs Probate Law Firm, I have found Georgia estate litigation is on the rise. For the most part, the Atlanta, Georgia Probate Litigation lawyers at my Fiduciary Law Firm attribute this to an increase in breach of fiduciary duties among executors, administrators, and powers of attorney. The most common type of disputes we see involves breach of fiduciary duty by the executor or administrator of an estate (also called the personal representative). These personal representatives are assigned the task of managing the distribution of estate assets and are responsible for the fair and honest treatment of beneficiaries and/or heirs during this process. During the course of probate, personal representatives have specific duties under Georgia Fiduciary Law, including the task of handling all estate assets such as real estate, collectibles, cash, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, and insurance policies. It is the fiduciaries responsibility of the personal representative to manage this process honestly, efficiently and in the best interests of all beneficiaries and/or heirs.

When a Georgia personal representative is assigned by the decedent in a will, or by the court in the absence of a will, or when the individual named in the will is unable to serve, the expectation is that the personal representative will conduct the required tasks without self-dealing or favoritism towards any party.


Breach of the fiduciary duties required by state law can include the following:

• Theft - directly stealing assets from the estate

• Conversion - indirectly stealing from the estate, for example by liquidating assets for less than their true value and keeping the difference

• Fraud - undermining the will by taking bribes or through dishonesty

• Acting out of Incompetence or Negligence – failure to complete duties correctly and within an acceptable period of time

• Overcharging for Services – charging exorbitant fees for the administration of the estate

• Conflict of Interest - a personal interest in the estate or in the outcome of the probate process


When breach of fiduciary duties and/or responsibilities are suspected, beneficiaries are entitled to swift legal action that will protect their interests. The Atlanta estate litigation lawyers at Adams Libby, LLC are versed in all aspects of probate litigation, including the initial phases, which often include mediation. Besides representing heirs and beneficiaries, we are also exceedingly experienced in preparing strategies for wrongfully accused fiduciaries to show that the estate is being managed properly and in a timely fashion under the circumstances, with no occurrences personal benefit or self-dealing.

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March 7, 2010

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.

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

February 7, 2010

AS A BENEFICIARY OR HEIR OF A GEORGIA PROBATE ESTATE, YOU ARE ENTITLED TO AN INVENTORY AND ACCOUNTING IN GEORGIA PROBATE COURT

As an experienced Atlanta Probate Lawyer, I have repeatedly seen first-hand the frustration a beneficiary or heir can experience if the executor or administrator of a Georgia Probate Estate refuses or is unwilling to provide the beneficiaries or heirs with answers concerning the status of the estate. I also understand the difficulties a non-responsive, uncaring, or vindictive executor or administrator can cause by imposing their “perceived” powers upon the beneficiaries or heirs of an estate. Fortunately, for the beneficiary or heir subject this unjust behavior, these executors or administrators must carry out their fiduciary duties imposed pursuant to TITLE 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated entitled “WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES”.

Moreover, the Georgia executor or estate administrator has to move the Georgia estate administration process along expeditiously and in the best interests of all persons who are interested in the estate and with due regard for their respective rights. This implies a “reasonable” amount of time in which matters are to move forward.


Nevertheless, regardless of the high standards and accountability to which a fiduciary is held, if you do not seek legal counsel to address these matters and compel answers, the Georgia Probate Courts will not likely hold accountable these Georgia Estate Fiduciaries. As a beneficiary or heir, it is up to you to seek relief by asserting your entitlement to answers and compelling answers due under Georgia Probate law and using the powers of the Georgia Probate Courts to obtain answers. The fact remains, even if you have signed documents giving the executor or administrator broad powers and waivers under Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration issued by the Georgia Probate Court, you can still request and receive answers from the executor or administrator of the estate. However, matters have become much more complex and it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Atlanta Probate Lawyer or Atlanta Estate Litigation Law Firm.

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March 21, 2009

ATLANTA ESTATE, FIDUCIARY AND PROBATE LITIGATION LAWYERS SEE RISE IN LAWSUITS AND DISPUTES AMONGST EXECUTORS, ADMINISTRATORS, BENEFICIARIES AND HEIRS

The Atlanta, Georgia probate litigation lawyers at our Firm who have lawsuits and disputes ongoing in Marietta, Cobb County; Atlanta, Fulton County; Decatur, DeKalb County; Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, as well as other Metro Atlanta area county probate courts have seen breach of fiduciary claims on the rise.

The reasons behind this trend? THE ECONOMY!

It altogether makes sense to understand that in these troubled times, a Georgia executor, administrator, attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, trustees, or other fiduciary, would “dip into the pot” of estate funds which are meant for the beneficiaries or heirs. The reasoning, we have concluded, is that no one will believe or be able to show that these fiduciaries have abused their powers by navigating estate funds into their own interest and use. Moreover, many Georgia beneficiaries and heirs do not know what their rights are and as such, do not know that fiduciaries have a vast and affirmative obligation upon them to “do the right thing” and manage the Georgia estate they are overseeing and controlling in the best interests of all of the beneficiaries and heirs.

On the contrary, altogether good executors, administrators, attorneys-in-fact, trustees, and other fiduciaries that are doing a good and adequate job are being accused of all sorts of heinous acts and breaches of their fiduciary duty by paranoid and overbearing beneficiaries and heirs.

If you feel that an executor, administrator, attorney-in-fact, or other Georgia fiduciary is not living up to their lofty obligations; Adams Libby, LLC specializes in evaluating, scrutinizing, and analyzing the dealings of executors, administrators, attorneys-in-fact, and trustees who have fiduciary duties to others. If our Firm finds wrongdoing, we appropriately and often aggressively seek legal remedies for our clients.

Our Firm also specializing in assisting, guiding and defending executors, administrators, attorneys-in-fact, trustees, and other Georgia fiduciaries in carrying out their obligations in a legally proper and appropriate way. Adams Libby, LLC also lends the appropriate support, care, and protection to the blameless fiduciaries in the course of carry out their duties. We also specialize in putting other fiduciaries back on track that have gotten off course or found they need the expertise of experienced Atlanta probate attorneys at the helm.

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December 26, 2008

GEORGIA ADMINISTRATORS AND EXECUTORS – YOU AND YOUR GEORGIA PROBATE ATTORNEY SHOULD SAFEGUARD AGAINST ESTATE ASSET MISMANAGEMENT AND BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY

As an Atlanta probate attorney, I often see Georgia probate estate administrators and executors turn into dishonest persons once they become administrator or executor of the probate estate. Upon qualification by the Georgia Probate Court, any administrator or executor is put into a position of power and trust over heirs, beneficiaries and others involved in the Georgia estate administration process and the assets of the Georgia probate estate. It is normal, but not wise, for heirs and beneficiaries to be trusting of the Georgia estate administrator or executor. This is especially true given the tough times are going through in this economic era and that it is wholly true that everyone could use an extra few dollars. Oftentimes, matters are made worse because many Georgia estate administrators or executors are family members, friends of family members or long trusted family friends.

In my practice as a Georgia Probate litigation and dispute lawyer, I see good people turn bad when they gain control of estate assets and have easy access to money that is not theirs. I have found this to be especially true when these estate assets include easily maneuverable items such as liquid cash, stocks, bonds, cars, jewelry, real estate and other items of great monetary value. This is especially true because these estate assets seem to be just arm lengths away from a “dip into the pot” without anyone noticing or any harm done at all. This is a common misperception of the untrustworthy administrator or executor and nothing could be further from the truth. As an Atlanta estate litigation attorney, I see and know all too well the tricks and deceptive actions of these dishonest and conniving persons. Fortunately, under Georgia probate law, these administrators and executors must adhere to and act within the scope of their fiduciary duty. Such administrators and executors are bound by the this duty almost regardless of what rights you may have been told you have signed away to them.

An administrator or executor (known as a fiduciary) has the following legal duties and obligations:

§ 53-7-1. General powers and duties of personal representative; additional powers
A personal representative is a fiduciary who, in addition to the specific duties imposed by law, is under a general duty to settle the estate as expeditiously and with as little sacrifice of value as is reasonable under all of the circumstances. The personal representative shall use the authority and powers conferred by law, by the terms of any will under which the personal representative is acting, by any order of court in proceedings to which the personal representative is a party, and by the rules generally applicable to fiduciaries to act in the best interests of all persons who are interested in the estate and with due regard for their respective rights.

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December 23, 2008

GEORGIA EXECUTORS AND ADMINISTRATORS HAVE A FIDUCIARY DUTY TO UPHOLD TO THE HEIRS AND BENEFICIARIES OF THE GEORGIA ESTATE

As a Georgia probate litigation lawyer who has represented clients in countless court and legal proceedings concerning Georgia estate disputes in probate court, I am seeing more and more breaches by executors, administrators, and agents for powers of attorney, of their fiduciary duties.

"Fiduciary Duty" Defined: A fiduciary duty is a legal relationship of confidence or trust between two or more parties. In a fiduciary relationship, confidence and trust is put into another, whose good faith, advice and protection are sought after and required by law.
The term fiduciary frequently is becomes issues in the management of Georgia probate estates by untrustworthy or self-dealing executors or administrators. In fact, it is more and more often, I am coming across breach of fiduciary duty cases and they have become quite common issues concerning executors and administrators in Georgia probate estate administration. My thoughts are that since we have fallen on tough times with respect to our economy, these Georgia executors and administrators are taking liberties with their fiduciary duties imposed by Georgia probate law.

If you feel parties will act in a manner inconsistent with fairness or engaging in self-dealing, please know Adams Libby, LLC represents administrators, executors, heirs, beneficiaries, estates, and personal representatives in all stages of Georgia estate administration and Georgia probate matters. Our Firm has extensive experience in Georgia probate guidance; Georgia probate disputes; Georgia probate litigation matters; and, estate mediation. Please feel free to contact us (404) 467-8611 or 1-877-412-3267 to see how we can assist you. Please also feel free to send us a confidential e-mail Web Site contact us form. Adams Libby, LLC is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, GA near the intersection of Piedmont and Roswell Roads.

October 26, 2008

WHAT ARE YOUR ‘FIDUCIARY DUTIES’ AS EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR OF THE GEORGIA ESTATE?

An executor or administrator is appointed by the GA probate court to perform the same administrative responsibilities when there is no Georgia will, the Georgia will fails to name an executor or no executor named in the GA will cannot or elects not to serve. Whether you are an executor or administrator, you must perform these important fiduciary duties imposed on you under GA probate law and in accordance with Title 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), which governs “Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates.” Title 53 of Official Code of Georgia Annotated imposes significant and strict fiduciary duties and lofty legal obligations on the executor or administrator to the estate, beneficiaries, heirs, GA probate court and other “interested parties”.

These important legal obligations often have severe consequences if not performed in accordance with GA probate law and the fiduciary duties and executor or administrator has and the “personal representative” of the estate. By way of quick definition, GA probate law refers to both an executor and administrator the personal representative. In the alternative of performing all of the these extensive and burdensome fiduciary duties and administration obligations on their own, many executors or administrators retain an experienced GA probate law firm to guide them through their duties, obligations and to perform their fiduciary duties in accordance with GA probate law.

In the alternative, many GA probate and estate law firms step in and act as executor or administrator of the estate. One reason prudent Georgia executors or administrators retain an experienced GA law firm to assist them, guide them and prepare important legal documents for them, is that an executor or administrator who does not perform their fiduciary legal obligations can be held personally liable for their acts. This occurs more often than one might think. In my law practice as a GA probate attorney, I have seen all forms of serious accusations against executors or administrators and all forms of misdeeds done by executors or administrators. This holds true whether these mistakes any such were made because of poor performance, not performed at all or performed with unjust intent.

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September 10, 2008

GEORGIA PROBATE COURT: EXECUTOR AND ADMINISTRATOR FEES, SAVING THE ESTATE MONEY AND KEEPING THE PEACE AMONGST THE BENEFICIARIES AND HEIRS

As executor or administrator of a GA estate, you are entitled to the statutory fees for Georgia executors and administrators. These statutory fees are based on a percentage of assets taken into the estate, a percentage of income on estate assets during the administration of the estate and a percentage of assets distributed from the estate upon finalization and discharge of your fiduciary duty under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and payable to an executor or administrator. Please note that these statutory fees as used in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated use the term; “personal representative” to refer to both an executor and administrator you should consult an experienced Georgia Probate attorney to understand these amounts.

IT IS VERY PROMISING IF NOT PROBABLE, THAT HIRING A GEORGIA ESTATE PLANNING AND PROBATE ATTORNEY AND LAW FIRM, WILL ACTUALLY SAVE THE ESTATE MONEY AND PRESERVE AND EFFECTUATE HARMONY AMONG THE BENEFICIARIES AND HEIRS OF THE ESTATE. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE WHEN YOU RETAIN GA PROBATE ATTORNEY AND LAW FIRM WITH SIGNIFICANT PROBATE AND ESTATE DISPUTE LITIGATION EXPERIENCE. THE LAWYERS AND LEGAL TEAMS OF THESE FIRMS KNOW HOW TO RECOGNIZE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS THAT COULD ARISE AND PREVENT THEM FROM COMING TO FRUITION. BY THE SAME TOKEN, THE SAME GA PROBATE AND ESTATE ADMINISTRATION LAW FIRM CAN ADDRESS, REACT AND RESOLVE ANY PROBLEMATIC SITUATIONS BEFORE THEY BECOME MATERIAL ISSUES IN THE “EXPEDITIOUS” ADMINISTRATION OF THE ESTATE.

I believe almost everyone acting as a personal representative is better off with the help of an experienced Georgia probate lawyer. Despite this reality, many people named as personal representatives start out thinking they can handle the job without help. As time goes on and the duties and tasks required of them become more complicated, many realize they need the help of a professional Atlanta wills, trusts and estate lawyer.

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September 1, 2008

MINIMIZE OR DIMINISH IMMINENT PROBATE AND ESTATE ADMINISTRATION DISPUTES

Atlanta, Georgia probate litigation Lawyers, who specialize in wills, trusts, estates and probate, as I do, tell clients and potential clients that meeting with an Atlanta, GA attorney to acquire an overview of how their assets are held is essential. This straightforward estate planning is indispensable because some assets are better suited when held or titled in a form under which the assets will pass outside of the purview of the Georgia county probate court. It is also a critical step to ensure that your assets pass to the persons or entities you desire and to avoid almost unavoidable fighting, bickering, probate disputes and probate litigation that develops when it is not clear where, and/or to whom, estate assets are legally to be distributed.

Unfortunately, most of us neglect to say why this is a good idea. In fact, if Georgia county probate courts didn't happen to be in charge of granting marriage licenses, most Georgians might never encounter the word “probate” until they lose a loved one and matters are mixed up and confusing to say the least. However, this is not the Georgia county probate court’s fault in any way, shape or form. It is the lack of planning on the individual’s part that causes the potential and oftentimes devastating confusion and fighting amongst family members. As such, it is critical to meet with an experienced Atlanta, GA probate lawyer to set up your estate plan in a fashion which will avoid all of the above-mentioned confusion. In short, the old sayings go: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “greed brings out the worst in people”. The fact of the matter is, if there are estate monies, stocks, assets, properties, etc. which are not clearly designated to an heir or beneficiary under an estate plan formulated by a qualified Atlanta, GA estate planning and probate lawyer, people will fight “tooth and nail” to get at these assets and make them their own. And, you can rest assured they will not come alone, they will come with their own Georgia probate lawyers, accountants, experts and the like. An experienced attorney can create an estate plan for you that can help to prevent these disputes, or at least minimize them to a large extent.

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July 31, 0012

HOW DO YOU HANDLE A DISHONEST EXECUTOR, ADMINISTRATOR IN GEORGIA PROBATE COURT?

As an Atlanta, Georgia probate dispute lawyer, I know a personal representative who “steals” or “defrauds” an estate, or otherwise behaves dishonestly, is a nightmare for a grieving family, the beneficiaries, and heirs. Unfortunately, I have seen in my Atlanta probate law firm practice, this occurs more than you might think. Inexperience with the legal and financial duties of a personal representative can lead to mistakes that have very bad results for the estate and its heirs or beneficiaries. In other cases, because executors and administrators are frequently family members or close friends of the person who died (decedent), they may have emotional or financial reasons for not being completely genuine. Or, they may have fallen on tough times and just think nobody is watching and no real harm will be done by “stealing” a “little bit” here and there.

Fortunately, Georgia fiduciary law allows you several ways to deal with a personal representative who is not meeting his or her duties, being dishonest or otherwise engaging in self-dealing. If you know ahead of time that the personal representative is not trustworthy, you may file a caveat -- a probate law term for a formal objection -- to that person's role as personal representative. As a Georgia probate litigation lawyer engaged in will contests and probate disputes, I vastly prefer to take steps long before this stage, to minimize the costs to my client from both fraud and legal fees. Nevertheless, it is often not until the probate process is underway that heirs and beneficiaries realize that there are problems.

For that reason, the law also allows them to formally sue a dishonest personal representative for breach of fiduciary duty -- that is, breach of the duty to act wisely and legally with another person's money. In fact, you can file this type of claim when the personal representative has merely threatened to breach that duty, as well as when you have positive evidence that he or she has breached it. If you can prove your claim, you can ask a court to order one or more of the following remedies:

• Stop a threatened breach of fiduciary duty
• Remove the personal representative
• Replace the personal representative
• Compel the personal representative to do his or her duties
• Reduce or deny payment to the personal representative
• Have the personal representative pay back money stolen or lost because of a breach of fiduciary duty
• Compel damage payments (compensation for the petitioner's losses) from the executor or administrator (personal representative)
• Money or property given to the wrong beneficiary may also be placed in trust by the court while it works out the proper ownership.

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