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.
Personal representatives are extremely wise to seek the counsel of a qualified Atlanta probate law firm so that they can complete their fiduciary duties in a fair, efficient, and cost-effective way. Moreover, attorney’s fees and expenses, court costs, and other expenses of the decedent’s estate are regularly paid from the estate. In fact, the personal representative is also entitled to a statutory fee and reimbursement for reasonable expenses for performing their duties as personal representative of the estate.
Working with the Atlanta probate attorneys at The Libby Law Firm will help keep the probate process on track and ensure that the required steps are executed properly. If you have been assigned to be executor or administrator of an estate, please contact us to discuss your estate administration responsibilities at (404) 467-8611. Our experienced Atlanta estate attorneys are well versed in all facets of estate administration and probate litigation. The Firm’s Main Office is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. We also have an office located in Marietta, Georgia and welcome the opportunity to assist you.