Tonight, our Probate attorney, Steve Worall, offers a primer on what to expect from in a Probate case.
Probate cases may vary from one to another, but there are several things that you and your Georgia probate lawyer can reasonably expect to happen during the process in most cases. Here a simple breakdown of some of the most common aspects of probate law in Georgia.
First, probate is the legal process that takes place to distribute a person’s estate after he or she has died. With some exceptions, such as living trusts, life insurance payouts, and few other things, everything owned by a person in his or her individual name at the time of death must go through this process in order to make sure they are being distributed properly under the law.
An “estate” isn’t just a term used for the rich, either. Most of the assets that are left behind when someone dies -their houses, their vehicles, their money, their personal property, are all considered part of their probate estate.
When a person dies as a resident of Georgia, someone will be named as the personal representative of their estate. If the deceased had a will, he or she will likely have chosen the person they want to fulfill that role, and that person is their executor. If they did not have a will, the probate court in their county will decide who should serve as administrator. This personal representative will work closely with the probate lawyer throughout the process. It is a big responsibility but it is also a privilege.
Again, if there was a will, then one of the first steps the executor and the Georgia probate lawyer will do is to prove that the will is valid. They must then compile a list of assets, debts, and heirs to be presented to the court. The executor and probate lawyer are also charged with notifying creditors and family members of the death and their rights, if any, to the estate.
Because the probate process can take a considerable amount of time, it is also the executor’s job to manage the assets of the estate while the legal proceedings are going on. Many people in Georgia find that this job is much easier under the guidance of a good probate lawyer, since the attorney will likely have far more experience in these matters than the executor.
Based on what debts and assets there are, the executor will have to decide whether or not any assets will need to be sold to pay for outstanding debts, including taxes. This may also require the executor to have various assets appraised to determine their value. If there is a will that gives money to heirs which is currently tied up in investments, then the probate lawyer will also help the executor sell those assets to meet the terms of the will.
A good Georgia probate lawyer will be able to guide the executor when it comes to how to manage, sell, and distribute assets according to the probate laws and the rules of the local probate court. Once all the property has been distributed, the executor and probate lawyer will follow up to make sure the estate is properly “closed” and the personal representative is discharged from his duties and liabilities.
Probate is not for the faint of heart. But with the right Georgia Probate Lawyer, it can be managed successfully.
Steve is headquarted in our Marietta office but his expertise is available to all of our clients from Atlanta to Gainesville to Canton to Lawrenceville to Savannah.