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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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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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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 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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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.



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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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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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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.


If you feel you or your loved one is the victim of “looting of the estate”, immediately contact the Atlanta, Georgia estate lawyers at The Libby Law Firm. 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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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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