The Hive Law

How To Probate A Will In Georgia Without An Attorney

How To Probate A Will In Georgia Without An Attorney

Wondering how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney?

This article is going to cover the steps you HAVE to follow.

And gives you all the details your probate attorney wouldn’t.

Along with links to all the resources you need for the probate proceeding.

Let’s dig in.

Get A FREE Consultation!
We run out of free consultations every month. Sign up to make sure you get your free consultation. (Free $350 value.)

How To Probate A Will In Georgia Without An Attorney

The steps to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney are:

  1. Obtain the death certificate.
  2. Find and file the decedent’s will with the Georgia probate courts.
  3. Petition the courts to start the probate process and pay filing fees.
  4. Get appointed as the estate’s personal representative.
  5. File the correct standard forms for the probate
  6. Set up EIN and open estate accounts
  7. Notify the heirs and creditors (i.e., a local newspaper)
  8. Notify the appointed guardian (if there are minor children)
  9. Inventory the estate’s assets.
  10. Inventory the estate’s debts (credit cards, real estate, etc.).
  11. Transfer the person’s assets into estate accounts.
  12. File an application for a Certificate of Transfer for real estate.
  13. Pay off funeral expenses, debts, and creditors.
  14. Distribute the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries.
  15. Provide the Georgia probate courts with the estate’s accounting.
  16. Filing tax returns for the estate.
  17. Close probate and discharge yourself as the personal representative.

1. Get A Copy Of The Death Certificate

You’ll need a death certificate to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney.

You can request one online, in person, or by mail.

To do so, fill out Form 3912 on this page and send it to Vital Records.

2. Find And File The Will

Finding the will of a deceased person can be a little more challenging.

The first thing you should do is contact their local probate court.

And see if the decedent filed a will with them.

If they did not file a will, then you need to find the executor.

The executor is legally obligated to file the will.

And obligated to notify the named beneficiaries of the probate process.

If you’re unsure who the executor is, the death certificate should name them.

If you still can’t find the will, check places like:

  • The home safe
  • A safety deposit box
  • Their filing system at home
  • Any storage locations they have
  • Other loved ones whom they may trust to hold it

You should also ask family members if there was an estate planning lawyer involved.

They may be holding a copy of the will.

Once you have the will, you need to have it signed by all the heirs.

Then file it with the Petition for Probate.

If an heir won’t sign, file the will anyways.

The probate courts will send a formal notice to the heir.

And give them an opportunity to object to the probate petition.

3. Petition The Courts To Start The Georgia Probate Process

You can find the Georgia probate instructions here.

You need to file:

These are the ones you need to get started.

But there are dozens of other probate forms you may need to file.

Figuring out how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney can be confusing.

Reach out to our estate planning lawyers to make it easier.

Solemn form is needed if the will was not notarized.

This is because the validity of the will needs to get proven.

Common form is used if the will was notarized.

This is because the validity is proven with a self-proving affidavit.

If you have a holographic will in Georgia, you’re out of luck.

You will have to distribute the estate per intestate laws.

4. Get Appointed As The Executor

When you file the will, you will need to ask to be appointed as executor.

The Georgia probate courts will issue you Letters of Testamentary.

These are court orders that give you authority to manage the estate.

To probate a will in Georgia without an attorney, you need this authority.

5. File The Standard Forms

The Georgia probate process includes many forms, like:

These are the easy-to-understand standard forms for probate in Georgia.

There are ones that are tougher to figure out, like:

  • Leave to Encroach on Corpus
  • Presumption of Death
  • Selling Perishable Property by the Conservator
  • Conservatorship of the Proposed Ward
  • Discharging the Personal Representative

Now, if you have a simple will in Georgia.

Then figuring out how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney is easier.

But you may be dealing with a more complex estate.

Our law firm can guide you through the probate process in Georgia.

6. Set Up The Estate’s EIN And Accounts

Figuring out how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney gets complicated here.

At the end of probate, you need to file a Form 1041 tax return for the estate.

To do so, you need to have an EIN for the estate.

You can apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) on the IRS site.

When someone dies, their probate assets become the estate’s property.

If those assets generate more than $600 of annual income, you need to fill out Form 1041.

And estates have to pay quarterly taxes as individuals do.

You’ll also need the EIN to open your estate accounts.

The estate account organizes and separates the finances for:

You can open an estate bank account at banks like Citibank.

To open an estate bank account, you’ll need to have the:

  • death certificate
  • EIN tax number
  • Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration (to prove your designation)
  • Decedent’s legal name
  • Decedent’s social security number
  • Decedent’s financial account numbers

7. Notify The Heirs And Creditors

This is important for how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney.

You are legally obligated under Georgia law to notify heirs and creditors.

This is true even if you have a valid will in the state of Georgia.

You’ll need to send a Notice of Death to the:

  • Social Security Administration
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • U.S. State Department (passport office)
  • Medicaid or other public benefit offices
  • Post office
  • Landlord, utility, and subscription companies
  • Financial institutions and credit reporting agencies
  • Former employers
  • Insurance companies
  • Other family members, friends, and social groups

You’ll need to cancel services the decedent is paying for, like their:

  • lease
  • phone plan
  • utilities
  • credit cards
  • subscriptions
  • membership fees (i.e., gym, golf, etc.)

You won’t know who some of the creditors are.

In this case, you can file a notice in the local newspaper.

Under Georgia probate law, this is sufficient notice.

8. Notify And Appoint A Guardian

Petitioning for guardianship is part of probating a will in Georgia without an attorney.

Even if the testator appointed a guardian of a minor child.

Let’s assume that there is a last will and testament that appoints a guardian.

The executor will fill this out on the Petition to Probate the Will.

And the state of Georgia probate courts will appoint them as guardians.

Let’s say the will did not appoint a guardian.

You’ll need to file for either:

Let’s say there is not an appointed guardian.

The Georgia probate courts prefer appointing close family members.

9. Inventory The Probate Assets

The executor will need to take inventory of the estate assets.

These estate assets include the deceased person’s assets like:

  • real estate
  • bank accounts
  • vehicles
  • life insurance policies
  • investment and retirement accounts (i.e., stocks, bonds, 401k, etc.)
  • personal property (i.e., artwork, collections, jewelry, etc.)
  • business interests
  • intellectual property

You may have trouble finding all of the deceased person’s assets.

Here’s a guide to finding the remaining assets of an estate.

If you need help, our Atlanta estate planning attorneys can do this for you.

Or, at least, our probate lawyers can give you the legal advice you need.

10. Inventory The Estate’s Debts

You’re not going to know who all your family member owed money to.

This is where the Notice of Death in a local newspaper comes into play.

You posting that Notice of Death gives creditors notice under state laws.

You have to post it once a week for four weeks in the state of Georgia.

The normal things your loved one will owe money on are:

  • utility bills
  • mortgages on real estate (rentals and primary residence)
  • insurance (car and house)
  • car payments
  • real estate taxes

Let’s look at the next part of how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney.

11. Transfer Assets To The Estate Accounts

The next step in the legal process is to collect funds from the probate assets.

From Step 9, these are things like:

  • real estate
  • bank accounts
  • vehicles
  • life insurance policies
  • investment and retirement accounts (i.e., stocks, bonds, 401k, etc.)
  • personal property (i.e., artwork, collections, jewelry, etc.)
  • business interests
  • intellectual property

Once you have the monies from these, deposit that money into the estate bank accounts.

To access, transfer funds out of, and close these accounts, you will need:

  • death certificate
  • Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration
  • Decedent’s legal name
  • Decedent’s social security number
  • Decedent’s financial account numbers

12. Transfer The Real Estate

You only transfer real estate if there is not a surviving spouse to take over it.

Transferring the real estate to designated beneficiaries is essentially a quit claim deed.

Our Atlanta estate planning lawyers can give you a quit claim deed for this.

Once the forms are filled out, file them with the County Clerk’s office.

You’ll need to:

  • pay the transfer taxes
  • pay the filing fees
  • file the deed in the county the house is located in

You will pay for the fees from the estate’s bank account.

Let’s say you distribute the estate before paying off creditors.

You could be personally responsible for those debts.

13. Pay Off Funeral Expenses, Debts, And Creditors

After you publish the Notice of Death, creditors should be reaching out to you.

If they have legitimate claims on the estate, it’s time to pay those off.

The order that you pay things off in order of state laws is:

  1. Year’s Support for the family
  2. funeral expenses
  3. estate administration expenses
  4. medical bills for the decedent’s last illness
  5. unpaid taxes and debts to the United States
  6. judgments, secured interests, or other liens
  7. all other claims

14. Distribute Probate Assets To Beneficiaries

This is the probate process for distributing assets in Georgia without an attorney.

There are different legal processes for different probate assets.

For monetary distributions, you just pay beneficiaries out of the estate account.

For real estate, you need to quit claim deed the property into their names.

And then make sure the deed gets recorded at the County Clerk’s office.

For personal property, you need a Deed of Distribution.

This gives you evidence of their ownership of the distributed estate assets.

Ask all beneficiaries to sign a receipt and release to prove you distributed assets.

15. Submit The Estate Accounting

At this point, everyone has been paid and the estate funds have been distributed.

It’s time to submit the estate accounting to the Georgia probate courts.

Let’s say you are figuring out how to probate a will in Georgia without an attorney.

You will have to keep up with the accounting and make sure you submit it.

You’ll need this Petition for the Final Settlement and Discharge of Liability form.

The final accounting needs to include:

  • inventory of the estate
  • valuations of the items in inventory
  • distribution of those assets
  • a list of debts and how much they were
  • who got paid what from debts

If you don’t keep track of this accounting, the beneficiaries can contest it.

In the event that the judge sides with them, you could be personally liable for monies.

It’s very important that you get help from either:

  • an estate planning lawyer
  • an accountant

Even if you want to probate the will without an attorney in Georgia.

16. Filing The Tax Returns

You need to file a tax return for the estate and the testator.

The decedent and the estate are separate tax entities.

You need the testator’s Social Security Number.

And the estate’s Employer Identification Number.

Then you can file Form 1041.

Estates and individuals get taxed the same way.

When you file taxes for the estate, the two kinds of taxes are:

  • transfer taxes from the estate to the beneficiaries
  • income taxes generated from the estate’s asset

Deductions that individuals have are the same for estates and living trusts.

Estates with a value less than $12.06M are exempt from federal estate taxes.

Once you go past $12.06M, the federal estate taxes get steep.

They go up to 40% of the estate for the amount that’s more than $12.6M.

Assets that get passed to a surviving spouse are not taxed.

This is due to the unlimited marital deduction and joint tenancy.

The state of Georgia does not impose state-level estate taxes.

17. Closing Probate And Discharging Yourself

This is the final step when probating a will in Georgia without an attorney.

You need to file a Petition for Discharge.

This petition asks the Georgia probate courts to release the executor.

It also absolves them of personal liability and settles the estate.

To discharge yourself, you have to show the probate courts that you:

  • successfully administered the estate
  • settled all claims
  • paid the necessary taxes and expenses
  • how much you paid attorneys, personal representatives, appraisers, etc.

Beneficiaries can file a claim to contest you getting discharged.

How To Probate A Will In Georgia Without An Attorney

With a little work, you can probate a will without in Georgia an attorney.

Fill out the form below if you’d like to have our probate lawyers to:

  • give you the correct paperwork and instructions for your situation
  • give you legal advice to make sure you set things up correctly
  • be on retainer in case you need guidance through any sticky situations

We see people going the do-it-yourself route all the time.

Reach out to us so that:

  • you don’t lose your inheritance to creditors
  • you don’t get civil or criminal charges for mismanagement of the estate
  • people don’t steal from the estate

Talk soon.

Get A FREE Consultation!
We run out of free consultations every month. Sign up to make sure you get your free consultation. (Free $350 value.)
Share This Post With Someone Who Needs To See It