Probate is the process of wrapping up the financial details of someone’s life when he passes away. Because it generally involves the transfer of property and payment of taxes and debts, the court system oversees the details. Georgia tailors its procedures for probate to accommodate both complex and simple estates.
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Locate the will of the decedent, the person who has died. Many people keep them in safety deposit boxes, and you may petition the court to allow the bank to open the box in your presence. If the will is there, the bank is obligated to turn it over to the court. Everything else must remain in the box until probate is officially opened.
Decide how to probate the will. Georgia offers solemn form probate, which requires notice to all potential heirs, and common form probate, which does not. File the will with the probate court along with a petition for whichever method of probate you have chosen.
File a petition with the probate court requesting a year’s support off the top of the estate for the decedent’s spouse and minor children, if appropriate. The Judicial Branch of Georgia allows this if notice is given to anyone who has a potential interest in the estate so the spouse and children can be provided for before any unsecured debts of the estate are paid.
Inventory the decedent’s assets and file a report with the court within six months. The list should include everything owned by the deceased that did not pass directly to someone else at the time of his death. Jointly owned real estate, insurance policies and pension benefits with a named beneficiary, for instance, pass directly to that individual and would not be included in probate.
Pay the decedent’s outstanding debts. Within 60 days of opening the probate process, publish a notice to all her potential creditors in a newspaper in the county that is overseeing the probate. The notice must run for four consecutive weeks, and creditors have three months after the date of the last publication to make their claims for payment from the estate. You may also have to serve notice directly on those creditors you are aware of.
Prepare and file tax returns for the decedent and for the estate if it earns any income after the decedent's death. You have until April 15 of the year following her death to file her personal return and pay any resulting taxes.
Distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries and close out the estate. A final accounting must be prepared and submitted to the probate court, which details the disposition of all assets and all expenses paid. When the beneficiaries approve it and receive their bequests, the court will approve your petition for discharge and probate will be completed.
Tips & Warnings
Solemn form probate requires anyone who is going to contest the will to do so within a prescribed period of time. If he does not, he loses his right to do it after probate is closed. Common form probate allows heirs to contest the will for up to four years.