Articles Posted in PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION DISPUTES & LITIGATION

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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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As an Atlanta, Georgia, Attorney, I encounter an ever-increasing number of cases filed contesting the validity of the Testator’s Will. The Libby Law Firm’ skilled Georgia Probate Attorneys can explain to each individual Heir(s) or Beneficiarie(s) and Executor(s) or Administrator(s) alike, the nature of such proceedings, and what it means to them in their particular situation.

AFTER THE TESTATOR HAS PASSED AND THE ESTATE IS BEING PROBATED

One of the cases commonly referred to and used as a defense to undue influence is Haynes v. First National State Bank of New Jersey case in 1981. The New Jersey Supreme Court established that the burden of proof lies on the proponent, especially when there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the will. It is also extended to transfers of property between donors and beneficiaries. The donee must bear the burden of proof and establish that the transfer of property was a gift and not the result of undue influence. This is altogether not so problematic when other heirs and beneficiaries received gifts, estate taxes mandated gifts of property and other wealth to use the Testator’s Unified Credit, and more. Therefore, it is common that related parties make gifts to their “flesh and blood” rather than have this money go to the Georgia Department of Revenue or the United States Treasury (the IRS).

Another landmark case is Pascale v Pascale in 1988. The New Jersey Supreme Court stated that the donee must establish for the court that the donor had an unbiased and competent counsel prior to the drafting of a Georgia Will or Power of Attorney. It is also helpful if these documents remain relatively similar in disposition of assets and powers given to the Power of Attorney In Fact. This is especially true if the donor is found to be mental or physically weakened. However, if the instructions and dispositions in these documents remain relatively the same, then a “best practices management” argument would be as follows:

• Argue to the Jury that whether it was a time the Testator was knowingly competent and understanding the consequences of all his or her acts, to the time when lack of capacity of undue influence might have set in, that even after the onset of some disease making a person susceptible to Undue Influence, the Testator’s wishes and desires remained the same.

• You may also argue that any confidential relationship can create a presumption of undue influence that the donee must then prove to be otherwise. A donee with superior knowledge of financial matters, fiduciary relations, or one who is directly responsible for the physical care of the donor can be considered to have an extraordinary relationship that could create undue influence. However, you will then go on to say someone has to take care of the loved one, and why should it not be another loved one rather than a hired paid caregiver who possibly doesn’t care about the disposition of the Georgia Testator’s Estate.

• To the contrary, Consider King v Brown in 2006. The jury found the will to be invalid due to undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity. In 2002, the decedent divided his estate between his 6 children in a will. Shortly thereafter, two of the decedent’s daughters (King and Brown) were named his guardians and they began to quarrel over the estate and money. When his house was destroyed, the decedent moved in with his daughter King and shortly thereafter wrote a new will disinheriting Brown and leaving his estate to his daughter King. The jury decided that this was a result of undue influence because the father had become so dependent on his daughter for care and influenced by King decided to disinherit his daughter. This is obviously the scenario you to avoid in your case and defense.

A PROCEDURE TO FOLLOW BEFORE THE TESTATOR SIGNS THE WILL, AND A WILL CONTEST IS ON THE HORIZON.

The types of joint account disputes involving family members can be avoided by asking an experienced and qualified Georgia Estate Planning and Probate Attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia to set up a Georgia Will that clearly defines the Testator’s desired intentions. Keep in mind that while probate proceedings resolve issues on these difficult and emotionally charged cases, your heirs are the ones who will live not only with the outcome, but also with the consequences caused by any drama that plays out during the proceedings. With the proper planning, you can eliminate this turmoil and create a positive experience for your loved ones. Moreover, documentation of the Testator’s ailment is necessary as is making sure that capacity is shown at the time of the making of the will as well as having a recent visit from a doctor are always helpful ways to document the intentions of the Testator.

In fact, it may be prudent to video tape the proceedings, take extra steps to make sure the Testator is of sound mind, ask a lot of difficult questions to demonstrate the Testator’s capacity, and also possibly record the Georgia Will execution. What is more, have the proper unbiased witnesses there who do not know the Testator and do not in any way shape or form have an interest in any Georgia will contest proceeding. This also might be time to add an extra witness to your Will and not use your own paralegal as a witness or witness the Georgia Will itself. The fact is, acting as if this situation does not exist is the absolute wrong thing to do. You may also want to do the following:

• Record the proceeding


• Have extra witnesses unrelated at the will signing

Ask extra questions to determine the Testator’s capacity

• Put an “In Terrom” or “No Contest” clause in the Will

• Acknowledge the left out parties and state why as opposed to just oddly leaving them out altogether looking as if the Testator forgot these would be heirs of beneficiaries did not exist

• Remember, when one makes a will must know and do as follows: 1) know the contents of the Will Document; 2) Know the Nature of his or her bounty; 3) Know and Understand the Nature and extent of his or her assets for disposition.

• The capacity to make a will is less than the capacity to make a contract, and only a lucid moment in time by the Testator necessary

• Use Common sense!

The Libby Law Firm Atlanta, Georgia Will Contest Defense Lawyers know how to use the one party’s acts or omission against them. Remember, we are often on the other side of the Georgia County Will Contest Case. The Adams Firm Atlanta Estate Litigation Lawyers know what to look for, bring to the attention of the jury, and downplay.
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As an Atlanta, Georgia, power of attorney litigation lawyer, I have seen a sharp rise in the number of cases dealing with the misuse of a power of attorney or other similar document. Most times, the fiduciary lawyers at our Firm see the misuse and abuse of a Georgia power of attorney committed against the elderly, incapacitated, and other persons who tend to be trusting, in need of help and/or suffer from some mental disorder, cognitive disability, or laboring under circumstances, which make them easily influenced or coerced.

A power of attorney is an authoritative document and brings with it the ability to act on behalf of someone else; usually without his or her presence or any questions asked. A Georgia power of attorney is relatively easy to establish over a person. The person who gains and holds the power of attorney is referred to as the attorney-in-fact or agent. These forms can be purchased for a few dollars from a “legal document information company,” downloaded over the internet, bought in an office supply or other such store, and even found over the web for free.

The Georgia power of attorney document can be easily secured, signed by the trusting, gullible, eager to please, or even forged. Furthermore, once an “attorney-in-fact” has a Georgia power of attorney, there are relatively few security measures in place to prevent these documents from being used without any questions asked. This is the case with many banks, credit unions, credit card companies, businesses, financial institutions, mortgage companies, or other businesses.

The fiduciary litigation lawyers at our Firm have found that many persons acting as an attorney-in-fact or agent pretend to act as if they are helping someone else, when they are only helping themselves to the money and assets of another trusting person. They are also spending monies that otherwise would go into the estate of the person who gave the power of attorney and defrauding the rightful heirs or beneficiaries assets which “would have been in the estate,” but for the misuse, fraud and abuse. It is important to know a power of attorney, brings with it a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the person giving the power of attorney. If the attorney-in-fact or agent is acting in his or her best interest or without the best interest of the person giving the power of attorney, they are acting breach of their fiduciary duty and in breaking Georgia law. They must be stopped before too much damage is done!

Our Firm asks that you look out for your loved ones and the following circumstances:

• Overly Trusting Person Giving Power of Attorney
• Sudden Change in Financial Circumstances
• Sudden Change in Behavior – (Especially Emotional or Worrisome Thoughts or Actions)

• Need for Money by Attorney-in-Fact or Agent
• Mental Illness such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Other Mental Disorder
• Inability Care to for Self
• Coercion (by Family, Friends or Others)

• Duress
• Undue Influence
• Lack of Capacity
• Incompetence
• Fraud
• Other Suspicious Circumstances

The reason I am writing this article is to tell you that there are many ways to prevent, stop, and recover the damages caused by the misuse of a Georgia power of attorney. Our Atlanta fiduciary litigation law Firm specializes in Georgia power of attorney litigation. We can assist you in preventing fraudulent use of a power of attorney by an attorney-in-fact or an agent. We can also represent you against persons who have wrongfully acted as attorney –in-fact or agent. It is important to know there are numerous powerful remedies to stop and hold accountable persons who obtain, misuse, or abuse a power of attorney. We can also assist you after the power of attorney has been misused and the “would be estate” has been squandered.
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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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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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As an Atlanta, Georgia wills, trusts and estate litigation lawyer, I am often asked by potential clients to determine if any undue influence has occurred with respect to a Georgia will, trust, power of attorney; or, other legal document. Our Atlanta, Georgia probate and estate lawyers have pending will contest cases in Atlanta, Georgia (Fulton County) Decatur, Georgia (DeKalb County), Marietta, Georgia (Cobb County), Lawrenceville, Georgia (Gwinnett County) and Macon, Georgia (Bibb County). As such, I have seen a common theme in the Georgia law being used to litigate these cases. While I am of the strong opinion there is typically no one factor which in and of itself can establish undue influence, there are a number of factors, which should absolutely be considered.

In determining and establishing undue influence in a Georgia probate court, or other Georgia state court, many of the relevant factors to consider in determining whether or not undue influence exists include the following:

• The existence of a confidential relationship between the parties;

• The reasonableness or unreasonableness of the testator’s disposition of his estate;

• The testator’s dealings and associations with the beneficiary;

• The testator’s habits, motives, or feelings, and his physical and mental strengths or weaknesses;

• The testator’s family, social, and business relations;

• The manner and conduct of the testator; and
• Any other fact or circumstance that shows the exercise of undue influence on the mind and will of a testator, including evidence as to the bad character of the person(s) exerting the influence.

Under Georgia Law, a transaction is recognized to be the result of undue influence when the parties are in a confidential relationship with each other and one party has a superior mental capability than the party who is the victim of the undue influence.

There are many circumstances under which the undue influence may occur. Moreover, undue influence can take place in a variety of manners, modes of operation, and under many circumstances. Likewise, the parties who are exerting the undue influence can come from many surprising and unusual relationships or associations with the decedent.

As an Atlanta, Georgia wills, trusts and estate litigation attorney, I feel the variables should be evaluated collectively to determine the existence of undue influence. An experienced Georgia estate and probate litigation lawyer who is knowledgeable at assessing all the factors of a potential case should evaluate these variables.

The following are some examples of persons who may be the particularly susceptible to undue influence:

• Persons who are elderly, not competent, naive, gullible or easy to fool
• Persons who have family which live far away
• Persons taking any mind or behavior altering prescription medications, using alcohol or over the counter drugs

• Persons using illegal drugs
• Persons in criminal trouble, with economic or social problems
• Persons who are going through or have gone through major lifestyle changes such as moving, divorce, becoming disabled, etc.

• Persons who have friends or persons who tend to take advantage of their favorable monetary situation
• Persons who are not good with handling their economic affairs or otherwise not good with money
• Persons who are too trusting and not protective of themselves

It is important to understand, there is no standard list of the type of persons susceptible to undue influence. Likewise, there is no standard or norm for persons who engage in exerting undue influence. What is important is that if you suspect undue influence is occurring, is likely to occur, or you believe it has occurred in the disposition of a decedent’s estate or before the decedent’s death, then you should immediately contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia, wills, trusts, and estate lawyer.

As a beneficiary or heir of an estate, you have options and legal rights under Georgia state law to have a will or other document declared null and void and set aside, recover assets and/or monies, damages, and possibly attorney’s fees. The Libby Law Firm represents heirs, and beneficiaries, in all Georgia wills, trusts, probate and estate disputes and litigation. We provide experienced legal representation through exceptional Atlanta Probate Attorneys. Our Firm has many decades of combined experience through its experienced Atlanta Probate attorneys and staff. We can assist you whether you are an heir or beneficiary. We also represent executors, administrators, and personal representatives in wills, trusts, and estate litigation matters.
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Georgia estate disputes can easily ruin relationships between family members. These types of issues include Georgia will contests and sticky situations such as the removal of a family member deemed unfit to be the executor of the will. We can all think of examples of famous estate disputes that have resulted in long drawn-out legal battles that last for years, even some that extend beyond the lifetime of the heirs. Due to the emotionally charged nature of probate hearings, when an issue comes to the surface during probate it is difficult to solve quickly without more emotional and financial damage to family members and a loss of estate assets.

Mediation is one alternative to allowing disputes to be resolved in a protracted probate trial. The Probate Judge will often prescribe a court ordered mediation to resolve conflicts between heirs and beneficiaries. This is done before the probate proceedings start or just after they begin, when conflicts have just come to the surface. During mediation the parties involved can air their concerns, present evidence and confront each other on the issues. Anything agreed upon between the parties during mediation is binding and will carry forward into the probate hearing. An experienced Georgia probate litigation lawyer can assist in this type of mediation by helping participants present their position on the issues.

There are some red flags to consider indicating that estate disputes are likely and mediation should be considered. These include multiple marriages during the life of the deceased, children who are left out of a will, preferential treatment of people outside of the family, special treatment given to certain children and family members (other than the spouse), recent changes to the will that cut out specific heirs and when the administrator or executor are slow to perform the fiduciary duties required of them. If these conditions present themselves, it is a good idea to consult with an Atlanta, Georgia probate attorney with expertise in estate litigation, who also has experience with dispute mediation. With good legal representation, all sides in the dispute can receive fair treatment and the probate process can move forward before the estate’s assets are spent.
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The Will Contest and Litigation Lawyers at, The Libby Law Firm 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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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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North Georgia estate disputes can easily ruin relationships between family members. These types of issues include will contests and sticky situations such as the removal of a family member deemed unfit to be the executor of the will. We can all think of examples of famous estate disputes that have resulted in long drawn-out legal battles that last for years, even some that extend beyond the lifetime of the heirs. Due to the emotionally charged nature of probate hearings, when an issue comes to the surface during probate it is difficult to solve quickly without more emotional and financial damage to family members and a loss of estate assets.

Georgia Probate Mediation in the North Georgia/Metro Atlanta area, is one alternative to allowing disputes to be resolved in a protracted probate trial. The Probate Judge will often prescribe a court ordered mediation to resolve conflicts between heirs and beneficiaries of a Georgia Estate. This is done before the probate proceedings start or just after they begin, when conflicts have just come to the surface. During mediation the parties involved can air their concerns, present evidence and confront each other on the issues. Anything agreed upon between the parties during mediation is binding and will carry forward into the probate hearing. An experienced North Georgia probate litigation lawyer can assist in this type of mediation by helping participants present their position on the issues.

There are some red flags to consider indicating that North Georgia estate disputes are likely and mediation should be considered. These include multiple marriages during the life of the deceased, children who are left out of a will, preferential treatment of people outside of the family, special treatment given to certain children and family members (other than the spouse), recent changes to the will that cut out specific heirs and when the administrator or executor are slow to perform the Georgia Law Required Fiduciary Duties required of them. If these conditions present themselves, it is a good idea to consult with an Atlanta, Georgia probate attorney with expertise in estate litigation, who also has experience with dispute mediation. With good legal representation, all sides in the dispute can receive fair treatment and the probate process can move forward before the estate’s assets are spent.
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