How Probate Laws Work in Georgia

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the grieving process continues long after the person’s death. During this time of grief, you must also deal with the practical implications of your loss, which is handling the person’s personal and real property. 

To handle the estate of your loved one, you must go through probate, which is a legal process of distributing the assets and dealing with the debts of the person who is deceased. While probate is similar throughout the country, Georgia laws dictate the details and timelines of the steps, which you must be aware of. 

Is Probate Required in Georgia?

Probate isn’t always required in Georgia. It is necessary by law if the assets belonged solely to the deceased person with no named beneficiary or with the estate as the named beneficiary. If the assets were included in a revocable living trust, probate won’t be necessary. Rather than provide multiple types of probate, the state of Georgia allows an estate to not go through probate as long as the heirs are in agreement with the distribution, if there was no will, and if the creditors agree to the plan for distribution. This process is included in the Georgia Code Section 53-2-1. 

How Do You Avoid Probate in Georgia?

The best way to a avoid probate in Georgia is by creating a revocable living trust for the estate. You can place all assets in the trust and name a beneficiary who will receive those assets after the person is deceased. Another option is by naming a beneficiary outside the will. For example, bank accounts may have someone listed as payable on death. Other accounts and assets may offer that option or a transfer on death deed, which prevents the need to include them in probate. These may include retirement accounts and even vehicles that have a POD or TOD listed. 

Can an Executor of an Estate in Georgia be Compensated?

An executor of an estate can be paid for their services, according to Georgia Code. Article 7 in the code provides details on how much the person may receive. It is important to keep accurate records and receipts to be provided with the correct compensation by court approval. 

How Much Does an Executor Get Paid in Georgia?

Georgia Code 53-6-60 says that executors may be paid as stated in the will. If no amount was included in the will, it would be 2-1/2 percent on all money received into the estate and 2-1/2 percent for amounts paid out of the estate. It may not exceed ten percent of the annual income of the property being managed. The code also lists reasonable compensation not to exceed three percent of the appraised value of the estate or what would be considered fair value by the judge if no appraisal has been done. The executor is also entitled to have expenses related to the handling of the estate paid by the estate. The court must approve these expenses before they will be paid. The final amount is left up to the court unless provided for in the will. 

How Long Does Probate Take in Georgia?

While probate follows a timeline, it can vary based on the size and complexity of the estate. If an heir contests the will, the process will be delayed. Assuming no complications arise, you can expect probate to take between eight months and one year. 

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Georgia?

Not all estates must go through the Georgia courts for probate. If the property was owned with joint tenancy, it will automatically go to the surviving owner. Other assets that have listed a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies, also automatically transfer ownership without the need for probate. 

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Georgia?

A will must be probated in Georgia even if probate isn’t necessary. The courts may need to validate the will or approve the request to file an informal probate if the estate qualifies. 

Settling an Estate in Georgia

Settling an estate in Georgia is much the same as elsewhere in the country. However, there are a few details that may be different from state to state. 

  • The first step is to file a petition to open probate with the court. The court will appoint an executor if someone is listed in the will. If there is no will, the court will appoint a personal representative. They both perform the same job.
  • The court will provide Letters of Testamentary to the executor, so they can act on behalf of the estate. They may need to post a bond to protect the estate.
  • The executor will locate and protect all inventory and appraise it if necessary.
  • The executor will file and pay taxes and pay all creditors. If needed, they can sell some assets to have enough funds.
  • The executor must publish notification of the death in the local newspaper within 60 days of appointment. Creditors have three months to come forward with any unpaid debts.
  • Once all debts have been paid, the executor can distribute the remaining assets to the heirs. They will submit a formal request to close probate with the court.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death in Georgia?

According to Georgia Code, anyone with a will must file it with the courts in a reasonable time. If they fail to do so, they could be cited for contempt and have a fine imposed. In Section 53-5-3, it states that a will may not be filed after five years. 

Georgia Probate Court

Each county in Georgia has a probate court with its own judge. You can find out which court covers your county or download standard forms at the official website of the Georgia Courts: https://georgiacourts.gov/probate/.

Georgia Probate Code

Georgia follows the Uniform Probate Code for estates which must be probated within the state. You can find a link to the Code at the Georgia courts website: https://georgiacourts.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Uniform-Probate-Court-Rules.Approved.05092019.pdf

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