A Primer on GA Probate Court
The 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.
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 criminal preliminary hearings to hear the charges and the case.
Not all estates need to go through probate, and some assets, like homes with a joint tenancy, are automatically passed to the appropriate heir. An estate planning specialist, such as Paul Black from The Law Office of Paul Black L.L.C, can help.
Services of Georgia Probate Court
Probate Court in Georgia works on the original jurisdiction of proving a will, estate administration, involuntary evaluation of incapacitated adults, and appointment of guardians. The probate, filing, and execution will come under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Probate Court.
Services of Georgia Probate Court includes
- Administration of elected officials oaths
- Issuance of Marriage licenses
- Permits weapons carry license
- Fireworks Permits
In addition to these, a Probate judge can also hold hearings for certain misdemeanors, including traffic cases, fish laws, and violations of state game. But it is only possible unless a jury trial is being requested. 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.
When Is Georgia Probate Necessary?
Probating an estate in Georgia usually involves these three steps:
- Gathering all the assets of the deceased person’s estate, including money, investments, bank accounts, real estate, and other property.
- Paying off the debts and taxes owed by the estate.
- Distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.
- Filling for the permission of weapons carry licenses.
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:
- Solemn Form Probate:
- When the heirs are known and present, this form is used for the immediate conclusion of the estate.
- 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.
- Probate of Will 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).
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 petitions that may be filed with the court whether there is a will or not:
- 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.
- 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 filing the correct Dekalb County probate court forms.
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.