The probate process begins when an individual dies and leaves behind assets and debts. The person’s executor or administrator files a petition with the appropriate probate court.
Understanding probate in Georgia can inform your will and estate plan.
Validation of the will
If the person had a will, the court examines and validates it during the probate process. This step ensures that the will complies with legal requirements. It also confirms that the deceased person was of sound mind when they executed the will.
If the deceased person did not have a will, the court follows the rules of intestate succession.
Role of the executor
When the person’s will names an executor, that named individual:
- Manages the estate
- Pays outstanding debts and taxes
- Distributes assets according to the person’s will or intestate laws
When the person does not have a will, the judge will appoint a personal representative to serve the functions of the executor.
The personal representative must notify creditors of the deceased person’s passing. The average Georgia household has nearly $9,000 in credit card debt, which passes to the estate when an individual dies.
Creditors have a specific period to file claims against the estate for remaining debts. The personal representative settles valid debt claims using the estate’s assets.
The executor or personal representative lists and values all property owned by the deceased. They will inventory real estate, personal assets and financial accounts.
After paying outstanding debt, the executor distributes assets to the deceased person’s beneficiaries. The probate court oversees this distribution to ensure it aligns with legal requirements.
Closure of the estate
Probate ends when the personal representative petitions the court to close the estate. The court reviews the administration of the estate and issues an order officially closing the probate process.
The duration of probate varies depending on the complexity of the estate, the presence of a will and disputes among heirs or creditors. Simple probate cases typically take a few months, while more complex cases may last a year or more.