How to Probate a Will in Georgia

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Probate a Will in Georgia

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Probate is the legal process of settling someone's estate when they die. Settling an estate typically involves paying off the deceased's outstanding debts and final taxes and transferring property to any heirs or beneficiaries. Probate courts usually oversee this process, and an executor named in the will or appointed by the court manages the estate. Most states, including Georgia, have special processes in place for estates that are either unusually complex or very simple.

Will

1. Locate the will.

Before you can petition the court to begin the probate process, you must locate the will of the deceased. People typically keep their wills in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box, but they may have filed it with the court while they were still alive. If it is in a safety deposit box, the bank must turn it over to the court.

2. File the will with the probate court.

Once you have obtained the will, you need to file it with the correct probate court. Typically accompanying the will itself is a petition for probate, which formally asks the court to begin the probate process. In Georgia, the state offers two different types of probate: solemn form and common form. Solemn form probate usually only occurs if the executor expects an heir or beneficiary to contest the will.

This type of probate requires notice to all potential heirs and settles any contests at the first court appearance. Common form probate, on the other hand, does not require notice but remains open to challenge for four years. File the petition for the method of probate you choose given the specific circumstances.

3. Inventory the deceased individual's assets.

Collect all estate assets, including personal property, money, bank accounts, or deeds, and file a report with the court within six months.

4. Pay any outstanding debts.

Before distributing assets to any heirs or beneficiaries, pay all outstanding debts. These include any debts owed to creditors, final tax returns, and any estate taxes owed to federal or state tax agencies. Within 60 days of opening the probate process, you must publish a notice to potential creditors. If the estate does not have sufficient funds to pay all remaining debts, you must liquidate other assets.

5. Distribute assets.

After paying all final debts, distribute the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. You must obtain evidence that the heirs or beneficiaries received their bequests and submit to the probate court a final accounting report that details the expenses paid and the transfer of all assets. After settling the estate, submit a petition for discharge. When the court approves this petition, the probate process is complete.

Probating a will in Georgia involves many different processes and filing requirements. Once you file the will with the appropriate probate court, you will need to take stock of the assets in the document and to whom they should go. But once you've completed your duties, you will have done a service to the deceased and their loved ones.

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