Roswell Lawyers Helping Clients Navigate the Probate Process With Ease
When clients approach us with questions about the probate process in Georgia, they are usually facing one of two situations—dealing with the loss of a loved one who left a will that needs to be probated or planning for the future and wanting to learn how to avoid having their assets go through probate. In both situations, it is important to understand how probate works and what assets will require it before an estate can be closed. Sitting down with a probate attorney may give you the answers you need.
Is Probate Required for Every Asset in an Estate?
Probate is a legal process required for assets that were solely owned by the decedent, whether a car or a family business. Before the estate can be distributed among heirs, an executor will be assigned to assist with the process of gathering the decedent’s assets, contacting beneficiaries, and ensuring any debt and taxes are paid. In case the decedent owned any assets in joint tenancy with a spouse or another beneficiary, had any transferable-on-death or payable-on-death accounts, or any other assets with a named co-owner or beneficiary, then probate will not be required for these assets.
Sometimes, only part of an estate requires probate. Assets in a living trust, for example, can be distributed to beneficiaries without probate, while a vehicle or real estate property solely owned by the deceased person must be probated before passed on to beneficiaries. One of the main advantages of probating an estate is once the estate is closed, it is protected from any creditor claims that didn’t come forward while the estate was still open.
Will the Cost of Probating My Loved One’s Estate Leave Us With Little to No Assets to Distribute?
While there are significant costs associated with probating an estate, it is very rare for the probate process to cost more than a small percentage of the estate assets. Georgia probate courts will require a filing fee of around $152. There may be additional fees, depending on whether you will need to file additional forms or not. Also, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, an executor may require assistance from experts, such as Estate Planning Attorney in Atlantas, CPAs, and bookkeepers to gather information to close the estate.
Every case is different, but it is estimated that probate costs about 5% of the total assets on an estate. This percentage can go up in case there are family disputes over the will, or if the estate is complex and requires ancillary probate (say if there were one or more property holdings out of state). So, while probate costs are significant and can vary, it is unlikely that probate itself will incur such high costs, leaving beneficiaries with most of the estate assets intact, assuming the estate is not insolvent and is, therefore, able to pay off any debts accrued.
What Are My Options to Keep My Estate Out of Probate?
Many clients opt for making estate plans to minimize or eliminate the possibility of having to have their assets probated. Several factors, such as cost, waiting time, workload, and the fact that individuals’ estate matters become public while the estate is being probated, leads them to choose to plan to spare their families from the trouble. While probate avoidance is not necessary for every estate, there are some tools and strategies you can use to ensure your assets are directly distributed to the heirs upon your death.
The most popular estate planning tool used to avoid probate is a living trust. You may choose to set up a living trust, fund it with a variety of assets, and assign beneficiaries that will receive it—according to your wishes—after you pass. A trust does not replace a will but can help minimize the number of assets that require probate and cut down on waiting times for asset distribution. Other strategies include adding a named beneficiary to any investment accounts and owning assets in joint tenancy, usually with a spouse.
What Next Steps Should I Take?
Whether you are facing the prospect of probating your loved one’s estate or want to know the steps you need to take to avoid probate in the future with your own estate, you can reach out to the seasoned team of probate attorneys at Oren Ross & Associates for all the answers you need. Call us at (678) 250-4281, and we will be happy to serve you and your family with all your estate planning and probate representation needs.