How to Avoid Probate in Georgia

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Protect your loved ones from probate complications. Get personalized advice on avoiding Georgia probate from The Law Office of Paul Black. Call us now.

Author: Paul Black

Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as  a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: October 03, 2023.

The Probate Process

The Probate Process sect

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The legal process of probate involves the court intervening to settle the responsibilities of a deceased person and distributing the deceased’s remaining assets. Unfortunately, this court process could become time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally charged. It becomes a difficult situation that no grieving family would ever wish to endure.

This is true whether the deceased left a will or not. The deceased’s assets will be distributed according to their final wishes in the will if they leave a valid will. In the event of a death without a will, their properties will be distributed according to Georgia law.

If you want to secure your family’s future without going through probate court, you have three available options.

  • Establish a living trust.

  • Name your beneficiaries for retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and securities.

  • Establish joint ownership of real property.

All of the above can be done with proper estate planning. Contact the Law Office of Paul Black for reliable advice on avoiding Georgia probate.

Establishing a Living Trust

Creating a living trust is the easiest way to avoid probate in Georgia. You simply place your assets in the trust and name a beneficiary.

When you establish a revocable living trust, you have to transfer ownership to the trust. In addition to naming yourself as a trustee, you may also appoint a successor trustee after you pass away. As the name suggests, this trust can be revoked or modified at any time during your lifetime.

You may also opt for an irrevocable living trust. A living trust, however, saves you the most money in taxes. This option, however, requires that you transfer ownership and control of the property in the trust as soon as possible.

The following properties may be placed in a living trust:

  • Real estate

  • Bank accounts

  • Cryptocurrency

  • Insurance policies

  • Bonds, stocks, and mutual funds

  • Interest or share in a limited liability company

  • Non-retirement investment accounts

  • Personal property

Your estate lawyer can advise you on the best option. Your choice will likely depend on who you name, trustee, and beneficiary.

Naming Specific Beneficiaries for Securities and Accounts

Naming Specific Beneficiaries for Securities and Accounts

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The state of Georgia allows bank accounts such as savings accounts and certificates of deposit to be designated as “payable-on-death” (POD), eliminating probate. You can name a beneficiary to inherit your assets upon your death.

In the account, all of the money is still yours. Your POD beneficiary has no rights to the money, so you can spend it all as you see fit. In the event of your death, your beneficiary can claim the money directly from the bank without going through probate court.

Similarly, Georgia law allows transfer-on-death registration for stocks and bonds. The beneficiary you name will inherit the account automatically upon your death if you file a TOD (also called beneficiary) form. Taking care of the account will not be necessary through probate court proceedings; the beneficiary will deal with the brokerage company directly.

Some assets where you can specify your beneficiaries include:

  • Retirement account

  • Life insurance policies

  • Securities

  • Bank accounts

Note that Georgia does not allow the transfer of real estate or motor vehicles with transfer-on-death deeds.

Establishing Joint Ownership of Properties

You can opt to establish joint ownership of properties with a loved one. In Georgia, this is also called “joint tenancy.”

Joint tenancy is a form of co-ownership where two or more people own the same property in equal shares. Each joint owner has an undivided right to possess the whole property and a proportionate right to equal ownership interest.

The right of survivorship is automatically included in joint tenancy. The property will be left exclusively to the surviving owners when you pass away. As a result, the probate process is entirely avoided.

When Is It Better to Avoid Probate in Georgia?

In most cases, it is better to avoid probate because it is a time-consuming and expensive process that can take months or even years to complete. It can also be an emotional process, as it involves settling the estate of a deceased loved one.

Avoiding probate is also important if you have a property outside Georgia. Some states have complex probate processes that are better avoided. Moreover, an out-of-state probate can be financially draining.

When you have a blended family, avoiding probate is also a good idea. Usually, it is the best course of action when there is a possibility that stepparents and stepchildren will disagree with the estate plan.

Establishing Joint Ownership of Properties

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When Is Probate Required in Georgia?

When Is Probate Required in Georgia

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Probate is mandatory if a person dies leaving a will. That’s because the probate court has to check if the will is valid. If the last will is valid, the deceased’s final wishes shall be followed.

It is necessary to probate a will before distributing assets based on it. The court appoints a personal representative in the absence of a will or no executor named in the will. The executor or personal representative should perform the following tasks:

  1. Locate all properties in the will or all known properties (if there’s no will).
  2. Pay all taxes.
  3. Pay the decedent’s known creditors.
  4. Publish a notification of the decedent’s death in the local paper within 60 days. Creditors need to come forward within three months of such publication.
  5. Distribute the remaining assets to the deceased’s heirs.

If you wish to ensure your will is executed according to your wishes, it’s important to create a foolproof will and follow the legal requirements. It is important to update a will on a regular basis to reflect any changes in circumstances. You can draft a will with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer.

When Is Probate Not Required in Georgia?

Georgia allows the decedent’s heirs to altogether forego the probate court process if:

  • The deceased has no unpaid debts.
  • The heirs agree to the estate plan.
  • The deceased left no will.

A representative of the heirs should file a petition with the court in which they attest that there is no need for estate administration.

How a Georgia Probate Lawyer Like Paul Black Can Help You

The probate process in Georgia is not mandatory with all estates, but sometimes it is necessary. Estate planning can secure the future of your loved ones.

An experienced estate and probate lawyer, Paul Black, can provide advice tailored to your needs. Paul has decades of experience in elder law and estate planning. Paul can assist you in preparing wills and trusts, setting up guardianships, and administering estates. He can also provide legal advice on inheritances, taxation, and probate. He is committed to providing personalized, compassionate service.

There’s no better time to plan your estate than now. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you.

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