As a Probate lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I realize that terms that are commonplace in our Georgia Probate Practice, are foreign to the layperson and even non-probate attorneys. To a seasoned attorney, Georgia Probate-Estate Administration can be relatively straightforward when the Georgia Estate Proceedings do not involve siblings or relatives who argue, objections court appointments, the sale of properties or assets, or caveats – which is a legal word for “objection.” This type of calm and smooth Georgia Estate Administration Proceeding is rarely the case. Conversely, probate is not a simple a matter to the heirs, relatives, and close persons to the decedent. Most Georgia Probate-Estate Proceedings are emotionally charged where rises to unprecedented levels. This is also true for disputes between all parties in interest to the Georgia Estate Proceedings. Moreover, the protracted nature of the Georgia Probate Proceedings can take a heavy toll in terms of the time consumed and emotional strain.
Probate Related FAQs
(1) What is the duration of the probate process?
In some cases, an Estate Administration Proceeding can be completed in a year. However, a couple of years is the norm and you should prepare to be patient and not worry about the day-to-day Estate Administration to which you are an interested party. In fact, opening the estate usually takes a minimum of 45 days. This involves, inter alia, completion and filing of papers, fixing a date for the hearing and issuing notices, letters, bonds, etc., and assumes all parties are amicable.
(2) How does one deal with creditors?
Creditors of the deceased must be issued notices after the submission of letters. In this connection, the mandatory claim period is 120 days during which the creditors may come forth with their respective claims upon the estate of the deceased.
(3) What are the expenses involved?
Probate involves what in legal parlance are termed costs and fees. Costs are expenses related to filing for opening the estate (In the Georgia, the fees and expense are in the hundreds of dollars. Moreover, the fees and expenses vary greatly from county to county. Recently, the fees have been rapidly rising and I would not even venture to guess the fees for the purposes of any future reason), issuing notices, and appraisal of assets by the court-appointed probate referee. Legal Fees are an estate expense. However, if the Georgia Estate is riddled with infighting, caveats (“objections”), hearings, and more, the legal fees, cost, and expenses can be significantly more.
(4) How does one distinguish between executors and administrators?
The distinction is based on the simple premise that the two function in two different situations – the court appoints an executor in the case of a testate death (“the deceased had a Will”) and an administrator in the case of an intestate death (“the deceased had no Will”). Executors are issued “Letters Testamentary” while administrators are issued “Letters of Administration,” both Letters outlining their court-conferred powers in respect of the estate. The term personal representative can be used to refer to both executor and administrator. Executors, administrators, and personal representatives have a Fiduciary Duty to heir and beneficiaries of the Estate. The Fiduciary Duty is one of the highest duties imposed by Georgia Law.
(5) Are there any cases in which a probate can be bypassed?
Yes, probate does not apply to assets such as insurance, retirement, and bank accounts if they name a living beneficiary. These assets are said to pass outside or probate and are Non-Probate Assets. In addition, in the case of joint assets, probates can be bypassed in case of death of the first owner (e.g. in the case of a jointly held home or bank account). In the state of Georgia, this also extends to assets forming part of a living trust. These are the general provisions and the particulars may vary depending on the laws that shall apply on a case-to-case basis. It is rare that there an estate is completely probate asset free, so all decedent’s estates should explore the whether the probate process is necessary. Even in cases where the Georgia Probate Assets total less than $10,000.00, there is a Georgia Probate Proceeding, which can be filed requesting the Probate Judge to Order “No Administration Necessary.” Therefore, there is really no Georgia Estate that can pass without touching base with the County Probate Court in some way, shape, or form.
Starting off, any executor, administrator, or personal representative undertaking to probate a Georgia Estate should consider retaining an experienced probate lawyer to assist with the Probate Proceedings. First, the choice to retain a lawyer demonstrates that you want a fair-minded unbiased person involved with the Georgia Estate Administration. This also shows the other interested parties to the estate that you welcome transparency in the Estate Proceedings and all interested parties are welcome to any information concerning the Estate Administration. Taking this action goes a long way to calming fears and suspicions of the “self-dealing personal representative all heirs and beneficiaries fear.” Realistically, it takes a huge burden off your fears of inadvertently breaching your fiduciary.
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