In my many years as a Georgia probate attorney, I have represented numerous clients in probate cases. Most often my relationship with a client begins when I am asked this question, “How long will the Georgia probate process take?” In reality, this is only part of the question. What most parties in a Georgia probate hearing really want to know is, “When will I receive my share of the Georgia estate’s assets?” The answer to these two questions depends on several factors, including the speed that the petition can be completed and filed with the Georgia probate court, and then the length of time that the court will take to rule on the case. Nevertheless, I will say that the Georgia probate process in general takes anywhere from a little over six months to a few years. Therefore, I submit to you three rules of thumb, which I hope you will helpful and moderate your expectations. They are as follows:
One, be prepared to wait a substantial amount of time for the full probate process to be completed and the estate to be closed. Two, be patient and hope for the best, but be prepared to wait a long time if the particular case warrants this. Three, generally the more fighting, disagreement, disputes, and litigation, which may occur between the heirs, beneficiaries, and/or executors, the longer the probate process will take. Nonetheless, if it is any consolation, know that distributions may be made from the estate assets as the estate progresses through the Georgia probate process.
Once the required Georgia petition for letters testamentary or administration is filed, objections to the petition can be submitted during a set period of time (Objections in Georgia probate court are called “Caveats”). If objections are brought forward, then one or more hearing(s) is usually required which will delay the proceedings. If no objections are made, the court will not require a hearing and will order that the estate be opened, or that the administration of the estate begin. Georgia county probate courts will allow administration to begin when satisfied that the petition filed was carefully drafted. The petition must include the names of all the parties involved and the petition has to meet all of the Georgia probate petition legal requirements.
Although many factors can slow down a probate proceeding, there are several key items that are worth mentioning. The first is the location and number of beneficiaries. Where the beneficiaries live adds time to the process, as documents need to be shuffled back and forth for signature. Further, it is unreasonable to think that everyone will agree on everything all the time, so the greater number of beneficiaries involved can increase the odds for disagreement. In cases where beneficiaries have a lot at stake, they sometimes will hire their own legal counsel. When this is the case it can take more time to communicate and resolve issues.
Will contests in Georgia can cause significant delays in probate proceedings. A will contest is to determine the validity the Last Will and Testament of the deceased (the decedent). Anyone is allowed to hire a Atlanta, Georgia will contest lawyer and legally challenge the validity of the decedent’s will. Even when the reasons for filing a Georgia will contest are found to be bogus, the court must investigate each claim thoroughly before the probate process can continue. This can take up precious time and causes unnecessary expense. The degree of complexity of the assets in the estate can also increase the time that probate proceedings take. Before estate assets can be distributed, they need to be identified, located, and inventoried by the administrator or executor of the estate. Bank accounts and family homes are not very complex, and can be processed fairly quickly. In contrast, business interests and offshore investments can take more time to sort out and distribute.
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