Atlanta Probate Lawyers Helping Clients Through Probate After the Death of a Loved One
When a loved one passes away, the family is often left with the task of preparing for the decedent’s estate to be divided among his or her heirs. Depending on the kind of estate plans their loved one left in place, part or all of the estate will require probate before it can be passed down to beneficiaries. It’s always a good idea to have a probate attorney on hand who can help you and your family during such a stressful situation understand their state laws which directly apply to the situation. Here are some important aspects you need to know about probate in Georgia.
How Does Probate Work in Georgia?
When a decedent passed away and left a will, the will has to be probated. The probate process grants authority to a family member—usually a surviving spouse or child—to gather all the decedent’s assets, pay any pending debts and taxes, and distribute what is left to any beneficiaries. It is a formal, court-supervised process that takes on average eight months to a year, if there are no issues, such as family disputes or creditor’s claims.
The state of Georgia has two types of probate proceedings, solemn form and common form. Solemn form probate is needed when the executor anticipates that there might be a dispute among heirs, since it requires a formal notice to be sent out to all heirs and also that all contests to be settled at the first court appearance. If no disputes are likely, then an executor may choose common form probate, which does not require a formal notice to heirs but remains open to challenges for four years.
Is Probate Mandatory in Georgia?
Not all assets in an estate require probate. Assets owned solely by the decedent without a beneficiary designation or a second owner will require probate. Other assets, such as joint bank accounts and investments with a transferable-on-death designation, for example, will not require probate. Other items, such as property owned in joint tenancy, pension benefits, or life insurance proceeds, can also be transferred directly to heirs. This also applies to any assets held in a living trust.
It is interesting to point out that in Georgia if a decedent dies without a will and his or her estate has no debts, any heir can request the court to state that no probate is necessary. This is possible when all heirs agree on how the assets in the decedent’s estate should be divided and distributed and when no creditors offer any objection. If there is a disagreement among heirs, then probate will be needed.
What Can I Do to Avoid Probate?
A common question our Estate Planning Attorney in Atlanta answer every day is how to avoid having one’s estate probated. The answer lies in having your estate plans laid out early and revised often. If you have a complex estate with multiple assets (be that a condo in addition to one’s main residence or owning several investments), there are many steps you can take to minimize the number of assets that will require probate.
Because probate is costly and time-consuming, many of our clients choose to avoid it by setting up a living trust. Assets in a trust can be directly transferred to beneficiaries upon the trustor’s death and the process is kept private and away from the courts, making it possible for beneficiaries to receive their share of the inheritance in less time and less hastle. A trust is only one example of several different estate planning tools and strategies at your disposal. Every estate is different, and there is no solution that will work well for every one of them, so it is important to consult with a professional to see if a trust is right for you, or if you would be better off with a different estate planning option.
What Next Steps Should I Take?
If you are dealing with the prospect of having to take your loved one’s estate through the probate process, or you are ready to plan ahead and want to spare your family from the lengthy and laborious probate process, consult a probate attorney at Oren Ross & Associates. Each member of our team takes pride in treating every client as a VIP and pays special attention to your estate planning needs and concerns. We want to help you craft a plan to preserve your legacy or give you the confidence and knowledge you need in order to navigate the probate court with ease. Contact our local Atlanta office by calling (404) 436-1752. We look forward to hearing from you and learning how we can help you succeed!