(13 Easy Steps) How To File A Will In Georgia

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How To File A Will In Georgia - How To Probate A Will In Georgia - Probating A Will In GA - Probating A Will In Georgia

Figuring out how to file a will in Georgia can be complicated. 

Handling it incorrectly can lead to:

  • disputes between beneficiaries
  • potential civil and criminal charges
  • the executor having to come out of pocket for expenses
  • people contesting the will’s validity
     

If you want to know how to file a will in Georgia smoothly, keep reading. 

When the courts appoint an administrator to an estate, they can choose anyone. This includes creditors or third-party companies. Meaning you and your family lose all control over the estate.

If you want to create a will for your estate or file a petition to become the administrator of an estate, fill out the form below for a free consultation. 

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How To File A Will In Georgia - How To Probate A Will In Georgia - How Long Do You Have To Probate A Will in Georgia

How To File A Will In Georgia

These are going to be all the steps for how to file a will in Georgia. 

1. Find The Last Will And Testament In Georgia

The first thing you want to do is locate the original copy of the will executed by the decedent. 

And any amendments to the will if there are any.

The last will and testament and any amendments will get filed to be probated

But the law requires that any previously created wills get filed too

These older wills will not get probated

But the law requires you to file them with the courts

You should also locate any trusts or entities that will receive property from the state. 

2. Review The Testator's Signature And Witnesses

Reviewing signatures is the next step for how to file a will in Georgia. 

For a will to be valid, the signatures have to meet certain conditions

The conditions are that the will must be signed by:

  • the testators
  • two witnesses
     

A will can get signed by someone other than the testator

But that person HAS to be in the testator’s presence and sign at the testator’s express direction.

This person is signing the testator’s name for them. 

The witnesses HAVE to sign their own names. 

3. Locate And Review Self-Proving Affidavit

A self-proving affidavit authenticates a will in Georgia without locating witnesses. 

When you file a will in Georgia, the executor has to prove the validity of the will. 

To prove a will in Georgia, the courts will require the witnesses to show up in court. 

This can cause issues if the witnesses have passed away or you can’t find them. 

A self-proving affidavit gets included with your will if your estate attorney provides it. 

A self-proving affidavit gets signed by the testator and two witnesses that signed the will.

The difference is that this affidavit gets signed in front of a notary. 

And it gets notarized, which authenticates the will for the courts.  

4. Contact Witnesses For The Will In Georgia

Let’s say that the will doesn’t have a self-proving affidavit or that someone may contest it.

In this case, you’ll need to locate and contact the witnesses

Once you locate them, ask them to fill out the GPCSF 6.

You will need to file these forms with the courts to validate the will

If the witnesses have died, you still have options. 

You can find someone who is familiar with the decedent’s signature

They will need to fill out an affidavit to attest to the validity of the decedent’s signature. 

And this affidavit will get filed with the probate courts. 

5. Find The Named Executor

After you have validated the will, see if the will names an executor

If there is a designated executor, locate them

The executor is the person who needs to file the petition for probate

Let’s say that you are not the named executor. 

Notifying the executor is the only job that you have to do

If you are named the executor of the estate, you have to decide if you want to do it

If you accept, you need to verify who the heirs are

And you need to file the petition for probate

Related: Penalty For Stealing From An Estate

6. Verify The Beneficiaries Of The Will In Georgia

Per Georgia probate laws, the heirs are entitled to get notified of probate.

Heirs are people who would get part of the estate under the Georgia intestacy laws

Heirs are typically children, descendants, or other close relatives of the decedent.

Spouses typically are not legally considered to be heirs.

Because they are instead entitled to properties via marital or community property laws.

Related: Georgia Quit Claim Deed

7. Locate The Heirs Named In The Will

After you have determined who the heirs are, it’s time to notify them. 

Gather their mailing addresses and contact information. 

Each heir is legally entitled to get notified of the petition for probate. 

8. Hire A Probate Lawyer In Georgia

You are not required to hire a probate lawyer for the probate process. 

Hiring a probate lawyer can help you:

  • avoid litigation from creditors
  • avoid civil charges from heirs
  • save money on taxes
  • reduce the amount you owe to creditors
  • protect your fiduciary responsibilities

9. Figure Out Which Georgia Probate Form You Need

Georgia probate courts require you to use Georgia Probate Court Standard Forms.

If the decedent had a will, the petitioner has three options for how to file a will in Georgia:

  1. petition to probate will in solemn form
  2. petition to probate will in common form
  3. Petition to probate will in solemn form & for Letters of Administration with Will Annexed

10. File The Petition For Probate

Up until now, you’ve just been preparing for how to file a will in Georgia. 

Now it’s time to file the will. 

The will needs to get filed in the county that the decedent lived in. 

You can file it in person or mail it in. 

Here are the papers that you need to file a will in Georgia. 

  • death certificate
  • petition for probate
  • last will and testament
  • any amendments to the will
  • the self-proving affidavit (if applicable)

When you will the petition for probate, you will have to pay the filing fees. 

The filing fees vary from county to county. 

But, in general, you can expect to pay about $250 to file the petition for probate. 

Save your receipt from the filing fees. 

The estate will owe you that money back. 

11. Swear In The Executor

The courts have to approve the petition and the appointed executor. 

After they do, the executor has to take the “Executor’s Oath.”

After the executor gets sworn in, the court will issue letters of testamentary

This gives an executor the power to act in a fiduciary manner on behalf of the estate.

You need the letter of testamentary and the death certificate to handle the estate business.

This shows that you have the authority to act on the estate’s behalf.

You’ll need this to manage things like banks accounts for the decedent. 

12. Pay Off Creditors And Debts

After you figure out how to file a will in Georgia, you’ll need to notify creditors. 

Some of the parties that you have to personally notify are:

  • creditors
  • the Social Security Administration
  • The IRS
  • Medicaid (if applicable)
     

Most counties will require you to publically notify creditors of the decedent’s death. 

This is usually in the form of an obituary posted in the newspaper.

Your probate attorney can make sure you meet your local county’s requirements. 

You have to pay off creditors BEFORE you pay the beneficiaries of the estate. 

This includes debts owed to creditors, final tax returns, and estate taxes owed. 

All parties have to get notified within 60 days of the decedent’s death. 

Let’s say there is not enough cash in the estate to pay off debts. 

The executor will have to liquidate assets to pay off the creditors. 

13. Distribute The Estate Via The Will

After you have paid off creditors and debts, it’s time to distribute the estate

The executor will be distributing the estate per the terms in the will

The executor has to gather evidence that the heirs received their inheritance.

The executor also has to submit an accounting report to the probate courts. 

This accounts report shows the expenses paid and the assets that were distributed

After distributing the estate, the executor needs to file a petition for discharge

Then the courts will review the accounting and the petition for discharge. 

Once they approve the petition, the probate process is complete. 

How Long Do You Have To Probate A Will in Georgia - How To File A Will In Georgia - Probating A Will In Georgia

How Long Do You Have To Probate A Will in Georgia

Exactly how long do you have to probate a will in Georgia?

You have 5 years to probate a will in Georgia. 

After 5 years, the will becomes voided. 

This means that the estate will get probated per Georgia Intestacy Laws. 

5 years does not start when the testator passes away. 

5 years starts after you file a petition to either:

  • appoint a personal representative of the estate, or;
  • state that no administration is necessary for the estate.
     

So your first step after someone passes away is to file a petition to open probate. 

THEN, you have 5 years to probate a will in Georgia. 

Failure to probate a will in Georgia can lead to contempt and imprisonment

Related: Consequences Of Not Probating A Will

Does A Will Have To Be Probated In Georgia - Probating A Will In GA - Probating A Will In Georgia - How To File A Will In Georgia

Does A Will Have To Be Probated In Georgia

Georgia probate laws say that a will does have to be probated in Georgia. 

A will has to get submitted to the probate courts in order to distribute the estate to the heirs. 

But what if the executor does not probate the will?

The courts can hold the executor in contempt, fine them, and imprison them

They can also have the role of executor stripped away from them. 

The heirs are able to sue the executor for damages. 

For example, let’s say they didn’t file the will in Georgia and that you were inheriting a house. 

In the meantime, the housing market crashed. 

And the value of the home dropped 40%

You could sue the executor for that loss since they did not file the will for probate. 

(But if they had already filed the will, you have to eat that loss.)

The executor can also face criminal charges for not filing the will. 

This usually happens if they don’t file the will for their own financial gains

For example, let’s say that a family cousin was set to inherit 40% of the estate

If the executor does not file the will in Georgia, the estate gets distributed per intestacy laws.  

Meaning the cousin would not get that inheritance and the executor would inherit more

In this case, the executor would face criminal charges for not filing the will in Georgia. 

How To File A Will In Georgia

If you want the best probate attorneys to represent you, fill out the form below.

We have the experience needed to ensure that your rights are protected.

This means that you don’t wrongfully lose assets to creditors.

We also make sure that the probate process is smooth and fair.

This means you don’t get raked over the coals financially.

After you fill out the form below, we will set up your free consultation.

Talk soon.

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