Georgia Probate Court Guide

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According to Benjamin Franklin, the only certainties are death and taxes. Even so, many people are financially unprepared for the loss of a loved one. That is one reason probate court is necessary.

In general, the Probate Court is designed to ensure the equitable distribution of property when someone, known as a decedent, dies. To help navigate the process of bequeathing one’s estate, as well as deal with probate court after a loved one has passed, the family should retain a probate attorney in Atlanta from The Law Office of Paul Black L.L.C.

A Primer on GA Probate Court

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Cobb County Probate CourtThe Probate Court system in Georgia is in place to take care of clerical matters regarding estate planning, inheritance, the probate of wills, and issue marriage licenses and firearms. Its purpose is to ensure efficiency in non-criminal legal matters that mainly involve filing paperwork. All necessary GA probate court forms are available online so that residents can have everything filled out and ready to file when they arrive. Moreover, they can also contact the chief clerk for this.

Georgia probate judges are there to ensure that estates are settled legally, especially in cases where there is no will. When someone dies, their estate is transferred to the probate court, and an executor oversees the distribution of assets. Executors are usually family members, but they can be anyone over the age of 18 who is determined to be trustworthy and objective.

The probate court judge determines the validity of wills and ensures that all relevant parties have been duly notified of a death and are present for settling the estate. The executor oversees the fair distribution of assets and sees that creditors are paid.

Moreover, the judges of the Probate court can hold habeas corpus hearings or preliminary criminal hearings to hear the charges and the case where you need the help of a probate lawyer.

Not all estates need to go through probate, and some deceased person’s assets, like homes with a joint tenancy, are automatically passed to the proper beneficiaries or appropriate heir. An estate planning specialist, such as Paul Black from The Law Office of Paul Black, can help.

Services of Probate Court in Georgia

Probate Division in Georgia works on the original jurisdiction of proving a will, administration of estates, involuntary evaluation of incapacitated adults, death certificates, birth certificates, and appointment of guardians. The probate, filing, and execution will come under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Probate Court.

Services of Probate Court, GA includes

  • Administration of elected officials oaths
  • Issuance of a marriage license
  • Permits and weapons carry license
  • Fireworks permits
  • Probate of wills

In addition to these, a Probate judge can also hold hearings for certain misdemeanors, including traffic cases, fish laws, violations of state game, and maintain their vital records. But it is only possible unless a jury trial is being requested, which is directed to the Supreme court. Probate Courts also deal with commitments of mentally ill and drug abusers, including miscellaneous services, i.e., firework permits and recording of oath and bond.

It’s good to know that there is a probate court for every GA county, resulting in 159 county probate court offices and courthouses throughout Georgia. However, many people avoid probate because they got no one to be their legal representative.

Bear in mind that state law prohibits probate court staff from rendering legal advice, as well as recommending specific ways to pursue legal action. They also can’t recommend a specific attorney who can help you with your case or any legal remedies for a particular circumstance. You have to handle contacting an attorney licensed in the State of Georgia on your own. That is advisory, especially since many probate court matters may require special knowledge of legal principles and procedures.

But whatever county probate court or probate forms you may need help with, Paul Black from The Law Office of Paul Black can help you protect your rights.

What Are Georgia Probate Court Rules

There is a set of complex probate court rules, as there are in other court systems. These rules are outlined in the UNIFORM PROBATE COURT RULES provided by the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia.

One of the main probate court rules in Georgia is that an executor or an attorney hired by the estate will work with the county probate court. A probate court in Georgia may appoint an executor if there’s absolutely no executor or the executor can’t or will not function, according to the Official Code of Georgia section 53-6-20. The court may also appoint a guardian for the deceased’s children who were left without a parent. The deceased person may have named a guardian in his or her will, but if there is no guardian or the named guardian can’t or won’t take the children, the court will step in.

A second critical GA probate court rule is that one of two forms of probate must be chosen. Solemn form probate requires that the executor give notice to everybody who might have an interest in the will, and it becomes binding when the property is closed. Common form probate doesn’t need any notice sent following the naming of the executor, but it doesn’t become binding for up to four years. This provides parties in the court probate process a chance to contest the decision.


Other GA Probate Court Related Rules

Another rule of the probate court offices relates to the deceased person’s safe deposit box. Any person may file a Petition to Enter Safe Deposit Box with the county probate court when they believe that the deceased’s will may be in the individual’s safe deposit box. This must happen before probate starts.

If the request is granted, the safe deposit box may be opened by the bank. The bank must record any will and give it to the probate court, and they must give any insurance policies directly to the beneficiaries. Until the probate court appoints an executor, everything else stays in the safe deposit box.

There are quite specific guidelines for filling out Georgia probate forms, as well. Those are outlined here by the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia. To determine which forms are necessary depending on the specific circumstance, an attorney from The Law Office of Paul Black L.L.C. can offer a piece of legal advice.

When Is Georgia Probate Necessary?

Probating an estate in Georgia usually involves these three steps:

  1. Gathering all the assets of the deceased person’s estate, including money, investments, bank accounts, real estate, and other property.
  2. Paying off the debts and taxes owed by the estate.
  3. Distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.

The specific way these steps are accomplished can differ, depending on the size of the estate, whether or not the deceased person was married, and whether or not there is a will.


Georgia Probate When There is a Will

There are four possible types of probate when there is a will:

1- Solemn Form Probate:

When the heirs are known and present, this form is used for the immediate conclusion of the estate.

2- Common Form Probate:

This is filed by the executor when all heirs are unknown and are inconclusive for up to four years following public notice of a death.

3- Probate of Wills in Solemn Form/Letters of Administration with Will Annexed:

This type of petition is filed when the executor named in the will is unable or unwilling to carry out the duty and names a new administrator (usually by agreement of a majority of the heirs).

4- Will Filed Not for Probate:

If there is no property to distribute to heirs, the will is filed with the court to create a permanent record, but no probate is carried out. There is no fee for this filing.


Georgia Probate When There is No Will

When a person dies without a will (“intestate”), there are three possible proceedings:

1- Permanent Administration:

Notice to all heirs is required. The spouse or sole heir becomes the administrator unless they decline or are disqualified; otherwise, the administrator is chosen by a majority of the heirs.

2- Temporary Administration:

Notice to heirs is not required, but heirs may choose an administrator who compiles the estate inventory. No expenditures or disbursements are made without a court order.

3- No Administration Necessary:

If all the estate’s debts are paid, no other administration is needed, and all heirs agree to the division of the estate. This is the form of probate used.


Other Important Georgia Probate Petitions

There are also other petitions that may be filed with the probate court in Georgia whether there is a will or not:

1- Year’s Support:

Filed on behalf of surviving spouse or minor children to set aside a specified part of the estate for their support before payment of unsecured debts or any distribution under a will.

2- Petition to Enter Safe Deposit Box:

Filed when it is believed that the deceased person’s will is in a safe deposit box. If there is a will, the bank is required to deliver it to the probate court and to deliver any insurance policies to the beneficiaries. Burial instructions and any deeds to burial plots may be removed; all other items remain in the box until an executor or administrator is in place.

The Law Office of Paul Black can advise you during any part of the probate process in Dekalb County. While it is best to handle estate planning and draw up a will ahead of any need, we understand that life can take unexpected turns. Even if you do not have a will, we can assist you with the court probate process and filing the correct Dekalb County probate court forms.

Georgia Probate Laws and Succession

The portion of Georgia state law that governs probate and estate matters is Georgia Code Title 53. Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates § 53-2-1. This code outlines legal terminology used in Georgia probate matters and lines of succession for inheritance.

According to Georgia law, half-siblings who are children of the decedent are considered equal in matters of inheritance, as are children born after the decedent’s death but conceived prior.

Spouses are first in line to inherit and cannot be disinherited under Georgia law. All other assets outside of the first $200,00 of net estate value plus 3/4 of the remaining assets go to children, parents, siblings, and other relatives, in that order.

Georgia has no separate estate tax. For questions about a Georgia estate matter, talk to an attorney at the Law Office of Paul Black.

Note: If you are going to visit the supreme court or county probate court, make sure you follow safety measures in accordance with the current situation. According to the guidance of the Georgia Department of Public Health, about the current situation, you have to make sure to wear a mask and maintain social distance while in the courthouse. If possible, deal with your concerns via an online portal. 

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