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In my Firm’s Atlanta, Marietta, Buckhead, and Sandy Springs Probate Law Firm, I have found Georgia estate litigation is on the rise. For the most part, the Atlanta, Georgia Probate Litigation lawyers at my Fiduciary Law Firm attribute this to an increase in breach of fiduciary duties among executors, administrators, and powers of attorney. The most common type of disputes we see involves breach of fiduciary duty by the executor or administrator of an estate (also called the personal representative). These personal representatives are assigned the task of managing the distribution of estate assets and are responsible for the fair and honest treatment of beneficiaries and/or heirs during this process. During the course of probate, personal representatives have specific duties under Georgia Fiduciary Law, including the task of handling all estate assets such as real estate, collectibles, cash, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, and insurance policies. It is the fiduciaries responsibility of the personal representative to manage this process honestly, efficiently and in the best interests of all beneficiaries and/or heirs.

When a Georgia personal representative is assigned by the decedent in a will, or by the court in the absence of a will, or when the individual named in the will is unable to serve, the expectation is that the personal representative will conduct the required tasks without self-dealing or favoritism towards any party.

Breach of the fiduciary duties required by state law can include the following:

• Theft – directly stealing assets from the estate

• Conversion – indirectly stealing from the estate, for example by liquidating assets for less than their true value and keeping the difference
• Fraud – undermining the will by taking bribes or through dishonesty
• Acting out of Incompetence or Negligence – failure to complete duties correctly and within an acceptable period of time
• Overcharging for Services – charging exorbitant fees for the administration of the estate
• Conflict of Interest – a personal interest in the estate or in the outcome of the probate process

When breach of fiduciary duties and/or responsibilities are suspected, beneficiaries are entitled to swift legal action that will protect their interests. The Atlanta estate litigation lawyers at The Libby Law Firm are versed in all aspects of probate litigation, including the initial phases, which often include mediation. Besides representing heirs and beneficiaries, we are also exceedingly experienced in preparing strategies for wrongfully accused fiduciaries to show that the estate is being managed properly and in a timely fashion under the circumstances, with no occurrences personal benefit or self-dealing.
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If you are, or may be, an executor or administrator of an estate in GA probate court I believe you should consider that you are in charge of managing the bulk of the administrative responsibilities related to the administration of the estate in Georgia and have a strict fiduciary duties to carry out.

As a potential or acting executor or administrator of an estate in GA probate court, you must understand that you are legally accountable for the expeditious management of nearly all administrative responsibilities related to the administration of the Georgia estate considering the circumstances. These legal obligations are referred to and set forth in Title 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) which governs “Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates.” These legal obligations are a lofty standard and referred to as your fiduciary duties under Georgia probate law. These “fiduciary duties” impose on all executors and administrators exceptionally demanding legal responsibilities to the estate beneficiaries, heirs, Georgia probate court and other “interested parties”.

The Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor) Obligations and Duties Include:

1. Make sure that desired funeral arrangements are made and carried out.
2. Locate the original will and file with the Georgia Probate Court with the correct petition and other legally required documents. This includes the decedent’s death certificate.
3. Petition the GA Probate Court for appointment as Executor or Administrator (both referred to as a “Personal Representative” under GA law) and Petition for Letters Testamentary or Petition for Letters of Administration depending on the whether a Will governs the decedent’s estate and whether there is a Personal Representative available to serve under the Will.
4. For decedent’s estates, publish Notice to Debtors and Creditors of the Estate in the legal newspaper (“Legal Organ”). Publish legal Notice of Hearing in the legal newspaper, or other publication, acceptable to the Court.
5. Obtain death certificate or doctor’s statement for insurance claims (sometimes birth and marriage certificates also are necessary).
6. Notify all heirs, legatees, devisees, and next of kin of their interest in the estate. Search for any heirs if necessary. Petition the Court for Determination of Heirs if necessary.
7. Locate any safe deposit box or location where relevant instructions, documents, assets of the estate may be kept. Arrange for inventory of safe deposit box contents.
8. Obtain any whole and/or life insurance claim forms, fill out, and submit with policy (or policies). Obtain proceeds for beneficiary and Form 712 for estate tax return.
9. File claims for final medical bills with Medicare and other medical insurance carriers.
10. Assemble necessary documents for each parcel of real estate or mineral interest, including deeds, leases, tax receipts, title abstracts, and insurance policies.
11. If necessary, oppose in Court all incorrect or invalid claims against the estate.
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As an experienced Atlanta Probate Lawyer, I have repeatedly seen first-hand the frustration a beneficiary or heir can experience if the executor or administrator of a Georgia Probate Estate refuses or is unwilling to provide the beneficiaries or heirs with answers concerning the status of the estate. I also understand the difficulties a non-responsive, uncaring, or vindictive executor or administrator can cause by imposing their “perceived” powers upon the beneficiaries or heirs of an estate. Fortunately, for the beneficiary or heir subject this unjust behavior, these executors or administrators must carry out their fiduciary duties imposed pursuant to TITLE 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated entitled “WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES”.

Moreover, the Georgia executor or estate administrator has to move the Georgia estate administration process along expeditiously and in the best interests of all persons who are interested in the estate and with due regard for their respective rights. This implies a “reasonable” amount of time in which matters are to move forward.

Nevertheless, regardless of the high standards and accountability to which a fiduciary is held, if you do not seek legal counsel to address these matters and compel answers, the Georgia Probate Courts will not likely hold accountable these Georgia Estate Fiduciaries. As a beneficiary or heir, it is up to you to seek relief by asserting your entitlement to answers and compelling answers due under Georgia Probate law and using the powers of the Georgia Probate Courts to obtain answers. The fact remains, even if you have signed documents giving the executor or administrator broad powers and waivers under Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration issued by the Georgia Probate Court, you can still request and receive answers from the executor or administrator of the estate. However, matters have become much more complex and it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Atlanta Probate Lawyer or Atlanta Estate Litigation Law Firm.

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The Atlanta, Georgia probate litigation lawyers at our Firm who have lawsuits and disputes ongoing in Marietta, Cobb County; Atlanta, Fulton County; Decatur, DeKalb County; Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, as well as other Metro Atlanta area county probate courts have seen breach of fiduciary claims on the rise.

The reasons behind this trend? THE ECONOMY!

It altogether makes sense to understand that in these troubled times, a Georgia executor, administrator, attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, trustees, or other fiduciary, would “dip into the pot” of estate funds which are meant for the beneficiaries or heirs. The reasoning, we have concluded, is that no one will believe or be able to show that these fiduciaries have abused their powers by navigating estate funds into their own interest and use. Moreover, many Georgia beneficiaries and heirs do not know what their rights are and as such, do not know that fiduciaries have a vast and affirmative obligation upon them to “do the right thing” and manage the Georgia estate they are overseeing and controlling in the best interests of all of the beneficiaries and heirs.

On the contrary, altogether good executors, administrators, attorneys-in-fact, trustees, and other fiduciaries that are doing a good and adequate job are being accused of all sorts of heinous acts and breaches of their fiduciary duty by paranoid and overbearing beneficiaries and heirs.

If you feel that an executor, administrator, attorney-in-fact, or other Georgia fiduciary is not living up to their lofty obligations; The Libby Law Firm specializes in evaluating, scrutinizing, and analyzing the dealings of executors, administrators, attorneys-in-fact, and trustees who have fiduciary duties to others. If our Firm finds wrongdoing, we appropriately and often aggressively seek legal remedies for our clients.

Our Firm also specializing in assisting, guiding and defending executors, administrators, attorneys-in-fact, trustees, and other Georgia fiduciaries in carrying out their obligations in a legally proper and appropriate way. The Libby Law Firm also lends the appropriate support, care, and protection to the blameless fiduciaries in the course of carry out their duties. We also specialize in putting other fiduciaries back on track that have gotten off course or found they need the expertise of experienced Atlanta probate attorneys at the helm.
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As an Atlanta probate attorney, I often see Georgia probate estate administrators and executors turn into dishonest persons once they become administrator or executor of the probate estate. Upon qualification by the Georgia Probate Court, any administrator or executor is put into a position of power and trust over heirs, beneficiaries and others involved in the Georgia estate administration process and the assets of the Georgia probate estate. It is normal, but not wise, for heirs and beneficiaries to be trusting of the Georgia estate administrator or executor. This is especially true given the tough times are going through in this economic era and that it is wholly true that everyone could use an extra few dollars. Oftentimes, matters are made worse because many Georgia estate administrators or executors are family members, friends of family members or long trusted family friends.

In my practice as a Georgia Probate litigation and dispute lawyer, I see good people turn bad when they gain control of estate assets and have easy access to money that is not theirs. I have found this to be especially true when these estate assets include easily maneuverable items such as liquid cash, stocks, bonds, cars, jewelry, real estate and other items of great monetary value. This is especially true because these estate assets seem to be just arm lengths away from a “dip into the pot” without anyone noticing or any harm done at all. This is a common misperception of the untrustworthy administrator or executor and nothing could be further from the truth. As an Atlanta estate litigation attorney, I see and know all too well the tricks and deceptive actions of these dishonest and conniving persons. Fortunately, under Georgia probate law, these administrators and executors must adhere to and act within the scope of their fiduciary duty. Such administrators and executors are bound by the this duty almost regardless of what rights you may have been told you have signed away to them.

An administrator or executor (known as a fiduciary) has the following legal duties and obligations:

§ 53-7-1. General powers and duties of personal representative; additional powers A personal representative is a fiduciary who, in addition to the specific duties imposed by law, is under a general duty to settle the estate as expeditiously and with as little sacrifice of value as is reasonable under all of the circumstances. The personal representative shall use the authority and powers conferred by law, by the terms of any will under which the personal representative is acting, by any order of court in proceedings to which the personal representative is a party, and by the rules generally applicable to fiduciaries to act in the best interests of all persons who are interested in the estate and with due regard for their respective rights.

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As a Georgia probate litigation lawyer who has represented clients in countless court and legal proceedings concerning Georgia estate disputes in probate court, I am seeing more and more breaches by executors, administrators, and agents for powers of attorney, of their fiduciary duties.

“Fiduciary Duty” Defined: A fiduciary duty is a legal relationship of confidence or trust between two or more parties. In a fiduciary relationship, confidence and trust is put into another, whose good faith, advice and protection are sought after and required by law.

The term fiduciary frequently is becomes issues in the management of Georgia probate estates by untrustworthy or self-dealing executors or administrators. In fact, it is more and more often, I am coming across breach of fiduciary duty cases and they have become quite common issues concerning executors and administrators in Georgia probate estate administration. My thoughts are that since we have fallen on tough times with respect to our economy, these Georgia executors and administrators are taking liberties with their fiduciary duties imposed by Georgia probate law.

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An executor or administrator is appointed by the GA probate court to perform the same administrative responsibilities when there is no Georgia will, the Georgia will fails to name an executor or no executor named in the GA will cannot or elects not to serve. Whether you are an executor or administrator, you must perform these important fiduciary duties imposed on you under GA probate law and in accordance with Title 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), which governs “Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates.” Title 53 of Official Code of Georgia Annotated imposes significant and strict fiduciary duties and lofty legal obligations on the executor or administrator to the estate, beneficiaries, heirs, GA probate court and other “interested parties”.

These important legal obligations often have severe consequences if not performed in accordance with GA probate law and the fiduciary duties and executor or administrator has and the “personal representative” of the estate. By way of quick definition, GA probate law refers to both an executor and administrator the personal representative. In the alternative of performing all of the these extensive and burdensome fiduciary duties and administration obligations on their own, many executors or administrators retain an experienced GA probate law firm to guide them through their duties, obligations and to perform their fiduciary duties in accordance with GA probate law.

In the alternative, many GA probate and estate law firms step in and act as executor or administrator of the estate. One reason prudent Georgia executors or administrators retain an experienced GA law firm to assist them, guide them and prepare important legal documents for them, is that an executor or administrator who does not perform their fiduciary legal obligations can be held personally liable for their acts. This occurs more often than one might think. In my law practice as a GA probate attorney, I have seen all forms of serious accusations against executors or administrators and all forms of misdeeds done by executors or administrators. This holds true whether these mistakes any such were made because of poor performance, not performed at all or performed with unjust intent.

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As executor or administrator of a GA estate, you are entitled to the statutory fees for Georgia executors and administrators. These statutory fees are based on a percentage of assets taken into the estate, a percentage of income on estate assets during the administration of the estate and a percentage of assets distributed from the estate upon finalization and discharge of your fiduciary duty under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and payable to an executor or administrator. Please note that these statutory fees as used in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated use the term; “personal representative” to refer to both an executor and administrator you should consult an experienced Georgia Probate attorney to understand these amounts.


I believe almost everyone acting as a personal representative is better off with the help of an experienced Georgia probate lawyer. Despite this reality, many people named as personal representatives start out thinking they can handle the job without help. As time goes on and the duties and tasks required of them become more complicated, many realize they need the help of a professional Atlanta wills, trusts and estate lawyer.
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Atlanta, Georgia probate litigation Lawyers, who specialize in wills, trusts, estates and probate, as I do, tell clients and potential clients that meeting with an Atlanta, GA attorney to acquire an overview of how their assets are held is essential. This straightforward estate planning is indispensable because some assets are better suited when held or titled in a form under which the assets will pass outside of the purview of the Georgia county probate court. It is also a critical step to ensure that your assets pass to the persons or entities you desire and to avoid almost unavoidable fighting, bickering, probate disputes and probate litigation that develops when it is not clear where, and/or to whom, estate assets are legally to be distributed.

Unfortunately, most of us neglect to say why this is a good idea. In fact, if Georgia county probate courts didn’t happen to be in charge of granting marriage licenses, most Georgians might never encounter the word “probate” until they lose a loved one and matters are mixed up and confusing to say the least. However, this is not the Georgia county probate court’s fault in any way, shape or form. It is the lack of planning on the individual’s part that causes the potential and oftentimes devastating confusion and fighting amongst family members. As such, it is critical to meet with an experienced Atlanta, GA probate lawyer to set up your estate plan in a fashion which will avoid all of the above-mentioned confusion. In short, the old sayings go: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “greed brings out the worst in people“. The fact of the matter is, if there are estate monies, stocks, assets, properties, etc. which are not clearly designated to an heir or beneficiary under an estate plan formulated by a qualified Atlanta, GA estate planning and probate lawyer, people will fight “tooth and nail” to get at these assets and make them their own. And, you can rest assured they will not come alone, they will come with their own Georgia probate lawyers, accountants, experts and the like. An experienced attorney can create an estate plan for you that can help to prevent these disputes, or at least minimize them to a large extent.
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