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Navigating the Probate Process

Published Thursday, March 8, 2018

Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies so that an orderly and legal distribution of one’s assets can occur according to their wishes.

As in every case in Georgia, the probate process begins with filing a petition. Once a petition is filed, the court will open the estate and appoint a personal representative. If a will exists and names an executor, that person will appointed to manage the estate. If a person dies without a Will, an administrator of the Will is appointed by a judge.

Next, creditors of the estate, if any, are officially notified of the death through a publication in the legal organ of the county of the decedent.

The role of the executor or personal administrator is to determine, protect and manage the deceased’s assets during the probate process, and fulfill the wishes of the descendant contained in the Will, or to distribute the assets according to statute.

The executor may have to sell property or securities to meet the debt requirements and bequests.

For example, if the Will makes a number of cash bequests but your estate consists mostly of real estate, the property might have to be appraised and sold to produce the required cash needed to make the bequest, unless the beneficiaries will accept, or a judge allows, a distribution in kind.

Or, if there are many outstanding debts, the executor might have to sell some of the property to pay them.

The court will grant the executor the power to pay the deceased’s debts and taxes and divide the rest among the people or organizations named in their Will or, if there is no will, according to the statute. After all debts have been paid and the property has been distributed, the executor or personal representative requests to be discharged of his/her duty.

It can take several months or, in some cases, years to properly administer an estate.

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