Requirements to File a Small Estate Affidavit in Georgia

By Roger Jewell

In Georgia, when a person dies without a valid will, certain heirs to his estate are entitled to claim funds from his bank account upon presentation of a duly sworn small estate affidavit. Claiming a bank account where the decedent’s heirs are not listed as joint bank account holders with the decedent is a relatively simple process.

In Georgia, when a person dies without a valid will, certain heirs to his estate are entitled to claim funds from his bank account upon presentation of a duly sworn small estate affidavit. Claiming a bank account where the decedent’s heirs are not listed as joint bank account holders with the decedent is a relatively simple process.

Avoiding Probate

Small estate affidavits can be executed to avoid filing for letters of administration in a probate court. Generally, there is only one situation in which a small estate affidavit will suffice in lieu of a formal filing for administration of an estate, or probate. Specifically, Georgia allows for the transfer of a bank account to an heir at law when the account balance does not exceed $10,000. If the funds on deposit with the financial institution are held in a joint account, the other account holder is entitled to ownership of the funds and, as such, the funds may not be released without filing letters of administration for probate.

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Eligibility for Using a Small Estate Affidavit

A small estate affidavit can only be used by certain heirs at law. These are the surviving spouse of the decedent and, if there is no surviving spouse, the children of the decedent on a pro rata, or proportional, basis. If there are no surviving children, the mother and father of the decedent may file affidavits on a pro rata basis and receive the funds on deposit with the financial institution. If none of these heirs exist, the decedent’s brother or sister may apply for release of the funds.

Bank Deposits in Excess of $10,000

Georgia allows partial avoidance of probate when a decedent dies intestate, or without a will, and his bank account exceeds $10,000; however, the funds released by the financial institution must be used to directly pay for funeral expenses or final medical expenses incurred during the life of the decedent if a claim for these funds has not been made by a qualified heir at law within 90 days of the decedent's death. A financial institution may allow for release of deposits not to exceed $10,000 in full discharge of its obligations as established by Georgia law. Otherwise, any excess deposits above and beyond the amount of $10,000 are still subject to probate.

Another Procedure Applicable to Small Estates

Another situation where probate is not required, regardless of the size of the estate, is when all heirs to an intestate estate agree in writing to avoid probate. In that scenario, all creditors must either have been paid in full or not filed an objection to the agreement to avoid probate after having received proper legal notice.

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Probate Account vs. Probate Inventory

References

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When a person creates a will, she often includes language in the will identifying a person who will serve as the executor of the estate when the will creator dies. A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate.” Whereas an executor handles estate assets under a will, an administrator handles a deceased person’s estate if the person died intestate. Although the titles differ, both executors and administrators are responsible for managing the distributing the decedent’s estate.

Do All Wills Have to be Probated in Pennsylvania?

All wills must be probated in Pennsylvania. However, Pennsylvania provides a simplified process for smaller estates, with shorter proceedings and typically fewer expenses than traditional probate. In Pennsylvania, any interested party -- like a spouse or other beneficiary, creditor or the personal representative designated in the will -- may file a petition for settlement with the court if the estate meets certain requirements.

What Is a Notice of Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for determining and gathering the assets of a deceased person, known as the decedent, paying his debts, and distributing his assets to his beneficiaries and heirs. Although state law varies regarding specific procedures, notice of probate is meant to accomplish the same thing in every state; that is, notice of probate gives parties who have an interest in a decedent's estate warning that the probate process is being initiated. As beneficiaries may not know they were included in a decedent's will, notice gives them an opportunity to assert their rights at the very beginning of probate administration.

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