Benjamin Franklin famously said, “the only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Probate is an integral part of ensuring that the estates of deceased loved ones pass to their heirs or beneficiaries.
A qualified Atlanta probate attorney can ensure that your family members receive their inheritance in a timely manner and without excessive taxation. The following are some of the essential parts of a Georgia probate proceeding:
Inventory and Appraisal
One of your responsibilities as executor (in Georgia, that’s called a personal representative or PR) is to take inventory and appraise all estate property. The probate court overseeing your case should provide you with the required forms and instructions. You must carefully catalog each asset, including its legal description, account number(s), monetary value, and any certification of its worth by a qualified professional.
The appraisal values are used to calculate the statutory fees that you must pay upon closing the estate. Providing this information to heirs and beneficiaries is also important, so they know the exact value of the estate.
In most cases, a qualified Atlanta probate avoidance attorney can help you ensure that your loved ones’ assets pass to their beneficiaries without going through probate. During probate, there is a risk that some of the assets could be lost or mismanaged. Avoiding this risk is why many people choose to set up “transfer-on-death” or “payable-on-death” provisions on certain accounts and securities.
Administration of the Estate
The next step is to have a formal executor (if the deceased person left a will) or administrator formally appointed by the Probate Court. A petition must be filed asking the court to do this, and the Court will then issue a document called Letters Testamentary in the case of an executor or Letters of Administration if it appoints an administrator.
This person is responsible for identifying and inventorying estate assets, paying creditors and taxes and distributing the remaining assets to Heirs. He/she must also make regular reports to the court and take an oath that he/she is doing so in accordance with Georgia law.
An experienced attorney is essential in this process. The Judge cannot offer legal advice and is prohibited from discussing the facts of a case with any party unless all parties are present. Even uncontested probate cases can be complex and time consuming. It is wise to engage the services of a knowledgeable Atlanta probate attorney early on in the process.
Distribution of Assets
If the estate owes debts, they must be paid before the remaining assets can be distributed. This is a major part of probate and can often cause delays in distributing the estate’s assets to the heirs and beneficiaries.
During this process, creditors are given a window to make claims against the estate for money they believe they are owed. The executor of the estate must review these claims and determine if they should be paid or not.
While it’s impossible to avoid all legal issues, there are ways to minimize the time and expense of probate in Georgia. By taking the time to create a comprehensive estate plan, you can ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of in a timely and cost-efficient manner when the time comes. You can also establish “transfer-on-death” or “payable-on-death” provisions for specific accounts, which will transfer ownership without triggering the probate process in the event of your death.
Disputes can arise in a number of ways during the probate process. For example, someone can contest the will and this can delay the closing of the estate. A contested will can also result in higher accounting fees.
It’s unfortunate that when loved ones pass away, family members don’t always get along. This can lead to bitter disputes over how the deceased’s estate is handled, including disputed assets.
An experienced Atlanta probate attorney can help with probate cases in Atlanta heirs and beneficiaries understand the process and their rights. A lawyer can also ensure that all debts are paid and that assets are distributed according to intestacy laws in the state of Georgia. In addition, a lawyer can offer honest counsel without making false promises or suggesting unrealistic possibilities. This is critical for avoiding expensive legal battles that can drag on the probate process. Contact us today to discuss your case with our knowledgeable team of attorneys. We are committed to helping families and individuals.