Settling An Estate In Georgia: Your 9 Step Guide

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Settling An Estate In Georgia - How Long Does It Take To Settle An Estate - Probating A Will In Georgia

Wondering about settling an estate in Georgia? 

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • how the Georgia probate process works
  • the steps for how to settle an estate in Georgia
  • how long it takes to settle an estate in Georgia
  • the Georgia probate time limits you have
  • whether wills even have to get probated

Let’s dig in.

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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Settling An Estate In Georgia

Let’s talk about the probate process for settling an estate in Georgia. 

How Does The Georgia Probate Process Work?

The probate process in Georiga is how assets get passed to heirs when someone dies.

During the court proceedings for the probate process:

  • the probate courts confirm the decedent’s last will and testament
  • appoint the executor with a court order
  • distribute assets to the heirs and family members
  • settle debts

Most people create a will in Georgia to list their wishes on how to distribute their estate.

Part of the probate process in Georgia is proving the validity of the will.

To prove a will, the courts want to prove that:

  • it’s the original will
  • the decedent signed the will
  • the signing of the will got witnessed by two people

If the will gets notarized, this helps build the case of the will’s validity.

But, the probate courts in Georgia will have the witnesses testify that the will is valid.

But, the entire probate process in Georgia is:

  1. Authenticating the Last Will and Testament
  2. Appointing the Executor
  3. Locating the Decedent’s Assets (i.e., bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts)
  4. Determining Values of Estate Assets (i.e., investments, real estate, collectibles)
  5. Identifying and Notifying Creditors
  6. Paying the Decedent’s Debts
  7. Preparing and Filing Tax Returns (i.e., income tax returns, estate taxes)
  8. Distributing the Estate Property To Named Beneficiaries

The two types of probate processes in the state of Georgia are:

  • solemn form probate
  • common form probate

All the heirs have to get notified for solemn form probate.

A family member will need to schedule an appointment with the Georgia probate courts.

The probate courts will appoint a personal representative for the estate.

Common form probate doesn’t need anyone to receive notice of probate.

Common form probate gets used when the situation is straightforward.

And a contest of the will is not anticipated.

The personal representative has to notify everyone of the probate process.

They do this by publishing a notice of the probate process for the decedent in the newspaper.

It has to be a local newspaper where the decedent lived.

But, this is after the Georgia probate courts issue:

  • Letters Testamentary
  • Letters of Administration

And the notice has to get published in the newspaper within 30 days of the death.

This gives creditors a chance to get notified of the decedent’s death.

The creditors have three months to claim what’s owed to them from the personal property.

Probating A Will In Georgia

In this section, we are talking about:

  • how to settle an estate in Georgia
  • the Georgia probate time limits that executors have
  • how long does it take to settle an estate

How To Settle An Estate In Georgia

Let’s talk about how to settle an estate in Georgia.

These are all the steps you need to take when settling an estate in Georgia.

Our remote Atlanta law firm has estate planning attorneys that will handle all of this for you.

We help family members with the probate process all over the state of Georgia.

1. Probate The Will At Your Local Georgia Probate Court

It’s the executor’s legal responsibility to file the will.

The executor has to file the will within 30 days of the testator’s passing.

Let’s say the executor does not probate the will.

Then the Georgia probate courts will distribute the estate per intestate laws.

For estate assets owned by spouses, the surviving spouse has joint tenancy.

The executor will have to find the deceased person’s will.

And they will have to file the will at the local probate courts.

Let’s say that the deceased person never made a will.

You’ll need to go to your local probate courts and get letters of administration.

The Georgia probate courts will appoint an administrator to distribute the estate’s assets.

Usually, this is going to be a family member or surviving spouse.

You’ll have to pay filing fees of about $250 at Georgia probate courts.

2. Notify Agencies and Businesses

The deceased person’s personal representative needs to get a copy of the death certificate.

Then, you will have to provide a copy to the relevant parties.

People that need to get notified of the death and probate cases are their:

  • the post office
  • utility companies
  • phone company
  • internet company
  • credit card companies
  • mortgage lender
  • car loan company
  • retirement account providers
  • banks

This is not an all-inclusive list.

You should notify everyone who the testator did business with.

Let’s say that you don’t notify these companies and agencies.

On one hand, these companies will continue to charge the deceased person.

But, let’s say you keep getting money from things like Social Security.

That money needs to get paid back from the estate’s assets.

And that money will come out of the estate’s remaining assets.

Meaning that the loved ones will inherit less.

3. Inventory And Appraise Estate Assets

You need to inventory all the probate assets.

Especially if you’re going through the Georgia probate legal process.

Inventorying estate assets includes a person’s assets like:

  • retirement accounts
  • bank accounts
  • brokerage accounts
  • real estate
  • collectibles
  • life insurance policies
  • vehicles

You’ll also need to appraise these probate assets.

Inventorying and appraising estate property is important.

So that you can figure out how to:

  • keep up with all the probate assets you have to manage
  • quitclaim deed property to beneficiaries
  • divide the property between beneficiaries
  • pay estate taxes that it owes on income tax returns

4. Coordinate With The Successor Trustee

Most people who create a will also have a revocable living trust in Georgia.

The executor needs to work with the trustee.

The trustee is in charge of the revocable living trust assets.

And the living trust allows the grantor to leave property to loved ones.

But the trust assets can avoid probate and go straight to the beneficiary designations.

If there’s not a revocable living trust, you can ignore this step.

5. Notify The Beneficiaries

Let’s say you’re settling an estate on your own.

The Georgia probate courts can help you identify all the probate beneficiaries.

If you hire our probate attorneys, we will notify the beneficiaries and creditors for you.

You have to send certain notices to certain people about the probate proceedings.

The people that you have to notify are:

You have to notify the heirs-at-law so that they have the opportunity to challenge probate.

Unfortunately, this is a part of the Georgia probate laws that you have to follow.

You also have to notify creditors of the probate proceedings.

You have to reach out to creditors and figure out what the decedent owed.

You may not know all the people that are owed money by the decedent.

Or have their contact information like phone numbers or mailing addresses.

You have to post the death in the newspaper so that unknown creditors get notified.

Our probate lawyers can handle this legal process for you.

6. Manage The Estate Assets

An executor has a fiduciary responsibility to the named beneficiaries.

This means not losing money with the estate’s assets.

The executor’s goal is to preserve the investments in the testator’s personal property.

If the executor loses money, they can be liable.

This means that if they mismanage the estate assets, they can get sued.

Creditors and named beneficiaries can sue the executor of the estate.

Our legal advice is to not try to “go make money” with the estate property.

Just collect the estate property and get it through the probate process.

7. Collect Money Owed To The Decedent's Estate

Collecting money that’s owed to the estate will take some time.

You have to fill out paperwork and make lots of phone calls.

But, it’s not difficult.

Make sure that you are depositing the collected money into the estate bank account.

8. Pay The Bills Owed By The Estate

The executor handles the bills on the estate property.

This includes things like paying for the:

  • mortgage on any real estate
  • property taxes on any real estate
  • utilities on the real estate
  • car payments if any
  • federal and state income taxes
  • personal loans
  • storage fees
  • credit card bills

Administrative expenses include the:

  • mortgage
  • condominium fees
  • property taxes
  • storage fees
  • utility bills

These must get paid out of pocket until the estate closes.

The estate beneficiaries should pay these bills until the Georgia probate process starts.

Bills that should not get paid out of pocket are:

  • income taxes
  • personal loans
  • loans against life insurance
  • loans against retirement accounts
  • credit card bills
  • cell phone bills

For these final bills, the named beneficiaries should not pay these out of pocket.

They should let the personal representative of the estate handle them.

These bills get handled from the estate’s assets.

And they get handled during the probate process.

Let’s say the family members cannot afford to pay these bills out of pocket.

You’ll need to get legal advice on how to handle this.

Our Atlanta probate lawyers can help you figure this out.

No matter where you’re settling an estate in Georgia.

Let’s say there’s not enough money in the estate to pay all debts owed.

The claims on the estate have to get prioritized.

A year’s support to the family gets prioritized first.

Under Georgia probate laws, a year’s support is a necessary expense.

A year’s support is financial support for 12 months after the decedent’s death.

The surviving spouse and minor children get this.

9. Distribute The Probate Assets

After the debts and estate taxes get paid, it’s time to distribute the estate assets.

Once everyone gets paid, probate “gets closed.”

And, then, you can distribute the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries.

If there’s not a will, you distribute the remaining assets per intestate laws.

The remaining assets for intestate go to family members.

And then you’re done.

Georgia Probate Time Limit

Under Georgia probate laws, there is no time limit on settling an estate in Georgia.

Let’s say your loved one passes away.

After that, there is no time limit for when you have to file the petition for probate.

You can open probate for 2 weeks or 5 years after you get the death certificate.

And you have a legal obligation to file for probate at your local Georgia probate court.

(Executors can get sued for not probating wills by creditors and named beneficiaries.)

You can’t avoid probate in Georgia by just not filing for it.

But, there is a Georgia probate time limit.

We see clients, on average, open probate 18 months after their loved one dies.

After you open probate, you have 5 years to settle an estate in Georgia.

After that 5 year period, the will becomes invalid per state laws.

And the remaining assets in the estate have to go through intestate succession.

That’s why settling an estate in Georgia quickly is important.

How Long Does It Take To Settle An Estate

On average, it takes 12 to 18 months to settle an estate in Georgia.

It depends on:

Our Atlanta probate attorneys can help avoid a lot of these issues.

Or, at least give you proper legal advice on how to navigate them.

FAQs About Settling An Estate In Georgia

These are some of the most common questions we get about settling an estate in Georgia.

How Long Do You Have To Probate A Will In Georgia

You have 5 years to probate a will in Georgia.

How To Avoid Probate In Georgia

You can avoid probate in Georgia with three options:

  1. creating any type of trust in Georgia
  2. naming beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and brokerage accounts
  3. holding real estate in joint tenancy

Do Wills Have To Be Probated In Georgia

Yes, wills have to get probated according to Georgia probate laws.

Let’s say a will does not get probated by the executor.

The probate assets will go through the probate legal process anyway.

The estate assets will not avoid probate by not probating a will.

But the estate property will get split up per intestate laws in the state of Georgia.

Inheritance Tax Georgia (Estate Taxes)

The executor has to file an income tax return for the decedent.

The personal representative will have to pay the inheritance taxes in Georgia.

But, inheritance taxes and estate taxes come out of the estate bank accounts.

Decedents can pass down up to $12.06M in property tax-free.

That’s when they are settling an estate in Georgia.

But, that’s for Federal Estate Taxes only, though.

There may be state-level taxes to pay for in the state of Georgia.

Small Estate Affidavit Georgia

A small estate affidavit allows an estate to bypass the probate process.

These get used when there are little to no estate assets.

A small estate affidavit in Georgia does not exist.

In Georgia, all estates have to go through the probate process.

Hiring The Right Probate Lawyer For Estate Planning

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

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Talk soon.

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