Distributing an estate requires more than complying with the directions in the will. Georgia requires a court hearing and the completion of many duties.
After a person dies, leaving behind a valid will, their will must undergo Georgia’s estate administration and probate process. These probate proceedings usually take a year to complete.
Probate gives the estate’s executor or personal representative the authority to obtain all of the deceased person’s assets, pay off debts and taxes and distribute the remaining assets to the people named in the will.
After the person dies, the executor should obtain their will and file it with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. All wills must be filed even if probate is not required.
Next, the family or executor has to file a petition and pay fees to start the probate process. The court will appoint a personal representative, the will’s executor, or another person, to handle the deceased’s assets and debts.
After the will is filed, the personal representative should obtain all the property in the estate. A report must be filed with the probate court.
The personal representative has to pay all of the deceased’s outstanding debts from the estate which may include debts or unpaid taxes. The personal representative must notify creditors by placing a notice in the local newspaper.
Once the debts are paid, the personal representative will distribute the remaining assets in the estate to the heirs named in the will. The personal representative has to obtain evidence that these beneficiaries received the assets and file a final report with the court so the estate may be closed.
A will may not undergo probate under certain conditions. First, when the deceased person did not own assets in their name only. Secondly, when the deceased person possessed non-probate assets. These are assets that may be distributed without going through probate and include:
- Assets owned by another person
- Assets with a named beneficiary such as bank accounts, retirement accounts or a life insurance policy
- Assets held in trust
An executor’s major duty is to carry out the wishes contained in the will. Their responsibilities also include:
- Filing the will
- Starting the probate process
- Using estate funds to pay for funeral expenses
- Obtaining death certificates needed to complete many tasks
- Finding estate assets, managing them until distribution to creditors or beneficiaries and assuring that assets do not lose value during probate
- Paying debts and taxes
- Distributing bequests to people named in the will
- Closing probate
Attorneys can help design an estate plan that helps expedite the completion of probate. They may also assist estates throughout this process.