How To Avoid Probate In Georgia (The 10 Easiest Ways)

How To Avoid Probate In Georgia - What Assets Are Exempt From Probate In Georgia - Do Wills Have To Be Probated In Georgia

Wondering how to avoid probate in Georgia? 

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • all of the ways to avoid probate in Georgia
  • whether wills have to be probated 
  • how to transfer property after someone’s death
  • how much an estate has to be worth to go through probate

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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How To Avoid Probate In Georgia

To avoid probate in Georgia, you’ll want to plan your estate in a way that avoids the need for the probate process. 

Probate is a process in which a court oversees the distribution of assets left by a deceased person. 

Here are some strategies to consider for avoiding probate in Georgia:

  • Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship: If you co-own property with someone and have “rights of survivorship,” the property will not have to go through probate upon your death. Instead, it will automatically pass to the surviving owner.
  • Payable-on-Death (POD) and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Accounts: Many bank accounts and retirement accounts allow you to name a beneficiary who will inherit the account directly upon your death, avoiding probate.
  • Living Trusts: A revocable living trust allows you to put your assets in a trust, to be managed by a trustee for your benefit during your lifetime. Upon your death, the assets can be transferred to your chosen beneficiaries without having to go through probate.
  • Gifts: You can give away property before you die. If you don’t own it at the time of your death, it doesn’t have to go through probate.
  • Georgia’s Small Estates Procedure: If the value of the estate is below a certain threshold, Georgia law allows the inheritors to skip probate entirely. Instead, they can use a small estate affidavit to claim assets.
  • Beneficiary Designations on Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts: These assets typically pass outside of probate if you’ve designated beneficiaries.
  • Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney: While these won’t help avoid probate for property, they can help avoid a court process if you become incapacitated.
  • Tenancy by the Entirety: This is a special form of joint ownership that’s only available to married couples in some states.
  • Avoiding Probate for Vehicles: Georgia allows you to register your vehicle in a way that upon your death, the vehicle can pass to a beneficiary without probate.
  • Considerations for Personal Property: Sometimes, personal property (like household items) may be informally distributed among family members without undergoing formal probate, especially if there’s no dispute among beneficiaries.

Read More: How Much Money Can You Inherit Without Paying Taxes On It?

Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship In Georgia

Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship is a form of property ownership in which two or more parties co-own a property together. 

Here’s how it helps in avoiding probate in Georgia:

  • Immediate Transfer: When one owner dies, their interest in the property immediately and automatically transfers to the surviving co-owner(s), without the need for probate. This immediate transfer bypasses the usual court procedures that are associated with distributing a deceased person’s assets.
  • No Need for a Will: With the Right of Survivorship, the property doesn’t get distributed according to the deceased owner’s will (if there’s one). Instead, the ownership directly passes to the surviving joint owner, making the probate process for that asset unnecessary.
  • Clear Rights: The Right of Survivorship clearly defines the path of asset transfer upon death. This clarity minimizes disputes and legal challenges, reducing the chances of a prolonged probate process or court intervention.
  • Simplified Documentation: In most cases, a death certificate of the deceased co-owner is the primary document required to affirm the transfer of their share to the surviving owner. Once the necessary documentation is presented to relevant entities (like a bank or county property registrar), the asset is typically re-registered in the name of the surviving owner(s).
  • State Recognition: Georgia recognizes Joint Ownership with the Right of Survivorship. This recognition ensures that the transfer process adheres to state law and is streamlined to avoid complications.

Read More: How To Set Up A Trust In Georgia

Transfer On Death Deeds In Georgia

Transfer On Death Deeds (TODDs) are also called “beneficiary deeds.” 

They help avoid probate for real estate. 

With a TODD, an owner names a beneficiary for their property. 

Upon the owner’s death, the property goes to the beneficiary without probate.

Here’s how a transfer on death deed works in Georgia:

  • Creation: An owner creates a TODD. They name the future property recipients. The deed doesn’t transfer ownership right away. It just names who gets the property later.
  • Recording: The TODD must be recorded in the property’s county. This should happen before the owner dies to confirm its legitimacy.
  • Death of the Owner: When the owner passes, the property doesn’t go to the beneficiary right away. The beneficiary has steps to follow first.
  • Affidavit and Evidence: The beneficiary files an affidavit in the county’s deed records. This confirms the owner’s death and the beneficiary’s acceptance. They also need to submit the owner’s death certificate.
  • Immediate Ownership: After filing the right papers, the beneficiary owns the property. This avoids probate in Georgia. If the beneficiary delays, the property might go back to the owner’s estate and face probate.
  • Flexibility: TODDs can be changed. Owners can revoke or modify them anytime while alive.
  • Avoidance of Probate: The main advantage of TODDs is avoiding probate in Georgia. Probate can be long, costly, and public. A TODD lets the property go straight to the beneficiary, saving time and money.

Read More: How To Transfer Property Into A Living Trust In Georgia

Georgia Living Trusts

A living trust is a legal tool to manage and distribute your assets. 

You set it up while you’re alive, unlike testamentary trusts from wills. 

Its main purpose is to avoid the probate process in Georgia.

Benefits of a living trust in Georgia:

  • Avoid Probate: Assets in the trust aren’t part of your probate estate. They belong to the trust, a separate legal entity.
  • Immediate Access: Upon the grantor’s death (the person who made the trust), the successor trustee distributes assets without court approval. It’s faster than probate.
  • Privacy: The probate process is public, exposing estate value and heir identities. A living trust remains private.
  • Continuity: If the grantor can’t make decisions, the trust manages their assets without court intervention.
  • Flexibility: Trusts can be tailored to needs. They can be changed (revocable) or remain fixed (irrevocable).

Steps to make the Georgia living trust effective:

  • Draft Properly: Get an experienced attorney. Ensure the trust adheres to Georgia laws and states your intentions.
  • Fund the Trust: Transfer your assets to the trust, also known as “funding”. To avoid probate for your house, shift its title to the trust.
  • Monitor Assets: Add new assets to the trust as you acquire them.
  • Update Regularly: Review and modify your trust after significant events, like marriages or births.
  • Choose a Reliable Successor Trustee: Pick a dependable person to distribute assets correctly after your death.

Read More: Does Your House Have To Be Paid Off To Put It In A Trust


Gifting property before death in Georgia can help avoid probate. 

Probate is the legal process for distributing assets after death

When you gift property, it no longer belongs to your estate, so it doesn’t go through probate

But there are key things to consider:

  • Gift Tax: Large gifts may be subject to gift tax, but there are exemptions and limits.
  • Medicaid: Gifting property before applying for Medicaid can affect eligibility.
  • Capital Gains Tax: Recipients might face higher taxes when selling gifted property compared to inheriting through probate.
  • Loss of Control: Gifting means giving up ownership and control over the property.
  • Estate Planning: Gifting should fit into your overall estate plan and goals.

Read More: How Long Does An Executor Have To Settle An Estate In Georgia

Georgia Small Estates

In Georgia, if a person’s estate is worth less than $25,000, their heirs can avoid probate. 

Instead, they can use a simple affidavit to claim the assets. 

This process is called the Small Estates Procedure. 

It lets inheritors skip the lengthy probate process. 

They just need to provide a sworn statement, called an affidavit, to the court. 

This affidavit states who the rightful inheritors are and what assets they’re claiming. 

If the value of the estate is below the threshold set by Georgia law, the court can release the assets to the inheritors based on this affidavit. 

This method can save time and money compared to a full probate process.

Read More: How To Transfer A Deed After Death In Georgia

Beneficiary Designations On Life Insurance And Retirement Accounts

When you assign beneficiaries to life insurance and retirement accounts, these assets usually transfer directly to them. 

This happens without going through probate, which is the legal process for distributing a deceased person’s assets. 

Beneficiaries can be family members, friends, or anyone you choose. 

This method can be faster and simpler, and it bypasses the need for a court to decide how to distribute these assets. 

Just make sure to keep your beneficiary designations updated to match your wishes over time.

Read More: What Assets Cannot Be Placed In A Trust?

Living Will And Healthcare Power Of Attorney

A Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney help avoid probate in Georgia by allowing you to:

  • specify medical decisions 
  • designate someone to make them if you can’t

With a Living Will, you outline your medical preferences, like life support choices. 

This guides doctors and avoids disputes that could end up in probate.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney lets you name a trusted person to make medical choices on your behalf if you can’t. 

This avoids the need for court involvement, like probate, to determine who should decide.

Both documents clarify your wishes and who’s in charge if you’re unable to decide. 

This reduces the chance of legal conflicts and probate-related issues.

Read More: How To Put A House In A Trust 

Tenancy By The Entirety

In Georgia, Tenancy By The Entirety helps avoid probate. 

This is a property ownership type for married couples. 

When one spouse passes away, the property automatically transfers to the surviving spouse. 

Probate isn’t needed for this transfer. 

It’s simple and quick. It also provides protection from creditors targeting only one spouse’s debts. 

This method can be effective in avoiding probate for married couples in Georgia.

Read More: How Much Does A Living Trust Cost In Georgia

Avoiding Probate For Vehicles

In Georgia, you can register your vehicle with a “Transfer on Death” (TOD) designation. 

This means that upon your death, the vehicle ownership automatically transfers to a beneficiary you’ve named. 

This helps avoid probate for the vehicle, as it passes directly to the beneficiary without going through the probate process. 

It’s a simple way to ensure your vehicle goes to the intended person without the need for legal proceedings.

Read More: What Happens To A House When The Owner Dies And There Is No Will?

Considerations For Personal Property

Let’s say there’s no disagreement among family members.

Personal property like household items can be given to them directly, skipping probate the probate process. 

This happens outside of a courtroom, saving time and money. 

This approach works particularly well in Georgia. 

It’s called an informal distribution and helps avoid the formal probate process.

Read More: How To Transfer A Property Deed From A Deceased Relative

Do Wills Have To Be Probated In Georgia

Yes, in Georgia, most wills have to be probated

Probate is the legal process to prove the validity of a will. 

Probating a will allows assets to be distributed according to the will’s instructions. 

If the will is not probated, assets might not pass to the intended beneficiaries. 

There are some exceptions for small estates.

Some of Georgia’s specific probate rules and requirements are:

  • Filing the Will: The original will must be filed with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived.
  • Petition to Probate: A person, usually the named executor or an interested party, files a petition to probate the will. This petition essentially asks the court to validate the will and allow assets to be distributed.
  • Notifying Heirs and Beneficiaries: The court requires heirs and named beneficiaries to be notified of the probate process. They have the right to object.
  • Validating the Will: The probate court reviews the will to ensure it’s valid. If there’s no will, Georgia’s intestacy laws dictate how assets are divided.
  • Appointing the Executor or Administrator: If the will specifies an executor, and the court approves, they take charge. If no executor is named, the court appoints an administrator.
  • Inventory of Assets: The executor/administrator is responsible for compiling an inventory of the deceased’s assets.
  • Paying Debts and Taxes: Before distributing assets, the executor/administrator pays any outstanding debts, bills, and taxes from the estate.
  • Distributing Assets: After debts and expenses are paid, the remaining assets are distributed as the will directs. If there’s no will, assets are distributed according to state law.
  • Closing the Estate: Once everything is settled, the executor/administrator asks the court to close the estate.

Some reasons you would not have to probate a will in Georgia would be:

  • Year’s Support: A surviving spouse or minor children in Georgia can file a petition for a year’s support, which can change how assets are distributed.
  • Small Estates: If the estate is considered small (below a certain threshold) and doesn’t include real estate, Georgia law might allow for a simpler probate process or even avoid probate altogether.

 Read More: How Much Does It Cost To Probate A Will In Georgia?

Transfer Of Property After Death Without Will In Georgia

In Georgia, when a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” 

The distribution of their property is then governed by the state’s intestacy laws. 

Here’s how property is transferred after death without a will in Georgia:

  • Spouse but No Children: The surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.
  • Spouse and Children: The surviving spouse and children share the estate equally. However, the spouse will never receive less than a one-third share, regardless of the number of children.
  • No Spouse, Only Children: The children inherit the entire estate, divided equally among them.
  • No Spouse, No Children: The estate goes to the deceased’s parents. If both parents are deceased, it goes to siblings.
  • No Direct Heirs: If the deceased has no children, spouse, parents, or siblings, the estate goes to the next closest relatives, such as nieces, nephews, or cousins.
  • No Living Relatives: If no relatives can be located or if they are too distantly related, the estate “escheats” to the state of Georgia, meaning the state takes the property.
  • Homestead Allowance: In Georgia, the surviving spouse or minor children might be entitled to a homestead allowance. This means they could receive a portion of the estate off the top before other assets are distributed according to the intestacy laws.

Read More: How Much Does A Will Cost In Georgia?

How Much Does An Estate Have To Be Worth To Go To Probate In Georgia?

In Georgia, any estate can go through the probate process, regardless of its value. 

However, let’s say an estate only has personal property and its total value is less than the sum of the:

  • year’s support
  • exempt property allowances
  • funeral expenses

In this case, it can use the simplified “Petition to Dispense with Administration” process. 

If there’s real estate involved or assets exceed these amounts, standard probate is typically required. 

For smaller estates without real estate, after 90 days from the decedent’s death, eligible parties can file a Small Estate Affidavit to streamline asset distribution.

Read More: How Much Does An Estate Have To Be Worth To Go To Probate?

What Assets Are Exempt From Probate In Georgia

In Georgia, several types of assets are exempt from the probate process because they transfer automatically upon death or have designated beneficiaries. 

Here’s a list of assets that usually bypass probate in Georgia:

  • Jointly Owned Property: Real estate, bank accounts, or other assets owned as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” automatically pass to the surviving owner(s) upon death.
  • Payable-on-Death Accounts: Bank accounts that have a designated “payable-on-death” (POD) beneficiary will be transferred directly to that named beneficiary.
  • Life Insurance Policies: If a beneficiary other than the estate is named, the life insurance proceeds go directly to that named beneficiary.
  • Retirement Accounts: Accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement funds typically have named beneficiaries. Upon the account holder’s death, these funds go directly to the beneficiaries.
  • Securities Registered in Transfer-on-Death Form: Some stocks and bonds can be registered in a transfer-on-death (TOD) form. Like POD accounts, these assets will transfer directly to the designated beneficiary upon the owner’s death.
  • Living Trusts: Property placed in a living trust is meant to bypass probate. Upon the death of the grantor, the property in the trust is distributed or managed by a successor trustee as per the terms of the trust.
  • Property with Year’s Support: In Georgia, a surviving spouse or minor children can claim a “year’s support” from the deceased’s estate, and this property might be set aside from the regular probate process.
  • Motor Vehicles: Georgia law allows the transfer of motor vehicles outside of probate under certain conditions, especially when the estate doesn’t require formal probate.

Set Up Your Estate To Avoid Probate In Georgia

You want to make sure that your family is set up.

You don’t want your kids going into the foster system if something happens to you.

You don’t want the state to decide how to distribute your estate.

You don’t want your heirs to lose half of their inheritance to unnecessary taxes.

You don’t want family members who are disowned to get your assets.

You don’t want your estate to get stuck in probate for 12+ months.

Fill out the form below.

We will set your estate plan up for you correctly so you don’t have to worry about ANY of this.

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