Summary Probate Georgia: Your Guide to the Simplified Probate Process

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Also known as “simplified probate”, summary probate Georgia is a streamlined version of the standard probate process for small estates.

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: March 04, 2021. Last updated on: March 30, 2021.

Summary Probate Georgia: The Basics

Summary Probate Georgia The Basics

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According to a 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study by Caring.com, approximately 32.9 percent (one-third) of American adults have a will or other estate planning document. When an individual dies without a will or estate plan, settling the decedent’s final affairs and distributing the estate assets and property will require the surviving loved ones to go through the probate process with the local probate court.

In Georgia, summary probate offers a simplified probate procedure for estates of individuals who die without a will and with less than $10,000 in their bank accounts. Through the simplified probate process, surviving family members or heirs can file a duly sworn small estate affidavit to a financial institution or bank instead of going through the full probate process, which is usually expensive, lengthy, and time-consuming.

At The Law Office of Paul Black, we are dedicated to providing outstanding legal services and comprehensive guidance to individuals and families in estate planning and probate matters. Attorney Paul Black and his legal staff can assist heirs and beneficiaries with all stages of the summary probate process and estate administration.

Our law firm proudly serves clients throughout Atlanta, Georgia and surrounding cities. If you’re considering filing a petition for the simplified probate of your deceased loved one’s estate, reach out to our law firm today. Attorney Paul Black will offer you the experienced legal guidance and advocacy you need to navigate the different stages of the summary probate process. 

What Is the Probate Process in Georgia?

Probate can be described as a court-supervised legal process that is often required to settle the decedent’s final affairs. The probate process involves:

  • Gathering and evaluating the deceased person’s assets,
  • Paying taxes and debts, and
  • Transferring the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries.

Georgia’s probate process begins by filing a petition for the local probate court to formally appoint an executor or personal representative named in the will. If the person died intestate, or the person named in the will is unavailable or unwilling to serve, then the probate court can appoint an administrator.

Once appointed, the executor or administrator will take an oath with a promise to act in the estate’s best interest. The local probate court will issue a document known as “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration.” The document will give the personal representative the legal duty and authority to do the following:

  • Notify beneficiaries and heirs named in the will, such as a spouse, children, and grandchildren.
  • Notify creditors of the probate proceedings.
  • Collect and create a detailed inventory of all decedent’s assets, including any real estate.
  • Collect all decedent’s income, including rents, dividends, interests, debts owed, and claims.
  • Sell some assets, if required.
  • Pay the decedent’s final expenses.
  • Pay the valid debts and claims to creditors.
  • Pay all federal and state taxes, including estate, income, and inheritance tax.
  • Prepare and file the decedent’s final income tax returns.
  • Distribute all remaining assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the provisions of the will or with Georgia intestate laws (if there is no will).

In Georgia, the entire probate process can take between eight months to a year. However, any litigation, disputes, or disagreements between family members or creditors could extend the timeline considerably. Thankfully, simplified probate is a faster option for those who are eligible to settle the estate of their loved one through this expedited method. Having a skilled Georgia probate attorney on your side can also help limit any obstacles that could potentially slow down the process.

Eligibility For Summary Probate in Georgia

Eligibility For Summary Probate in Georgia

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In Georgia, summary probate allows the decedent’s estate to be released immediately to heirs and beneficiaries and avoid having to go through the lengthy full probate process. However, state law requires that certain conditions must be met before the deceased person’s estate is eligible for summary probate.

The eligibility requirements for summary probate include the following:

  • There must be no will.
  • The estate must have no debts.
  • Only family members or heirs may be allowed to file the small estate affidavit.
  • All the heirs and beneficiaries must agree about how the estate’s property will be divided.

If the deceased person’s assets do not qualify for the summary probate procedure based on the requirements listed above, then the decedent’s estate must go through the full probate process.

Not all assets are counted when determining eligibility, however. This includes property held in a living trust, in joint tenancy, in a retirement account that a beneficiary has been designated for, or in a payable-on-death account. This means that under Georgia probate law, summary probate is often available even for relatively large estates.

To find out how these eligibility requirements may apply to your case, contact a DeKalb County probate attorney at The Law Office of Paul Black to request a free initial consultation.

Georgia Simplified Probate for Small Estates Without a Will

In Georgia, simplified probate allows certain heirs of the deceased person to claim money from the deceased’s bank account if the person dies intestate (without a will). The purpose of the simplified probate is to help heirs facilitate the estate administration process in a faster and more efficient way. The small estate affidavit may be used for bank accounts only if the heirs are seeking to obtain funds from the decedent’s account.

According to Georgia Code section 7-1-239, whenever any person dies intestate having a deposit of no more than $10,000.00 in a financial institution, such financial institution shall be authorized to pay the proceeds of such deposit directly to the following people through the beneficiary designation process:

  • To the surviving spouse;
  • If no surviving spouse, to the children pro-rata;
  • If no children or surviving spouse, to the father and mother pro-rata; or
  • If none of the above, then to the brothers and sisters of the decedent pro-rata.

Once they have been deemed eligible with the help of a Georgia probate attorney, the heirs may then follow the process below to access the decedent’s bank account:

  • Download the Banking Affidavit of Surviving Relative Intestate Estate form.
  • Fill in the name of the county where the decedent lived while alive.
  • Fill in the decedent’s name and address.
  • Complete the bank name and address.
  • Under number 2, fill in the decedent’s date of death and your relationship with him or her.
  • Sign the affidavit before a notary.
  • Submit the form to the bank and request that they release the funds in the decedent’s bank account to you.

Upon presenting a sworn small estate affidavit, the heirs can recover a maximum of $10,000 from the decedent’s bank accounts.

Georgia Simplified Probate for Small Estates Without a Will

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Work With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Serving Atlanta, Georgia

Work With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Serving Atlanta Georgia

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Probate, whether standard or simplified, is an emotional process that often involves a lot of complexities. However, you don’t have to go through it all alone. Contact the Law Office of Paul Black today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with an experienced Atlanta probate attorney.

Our experienced estate planning attorneys can guide you through every step of the probate process and help you navigate important decisions. Attorney Paul Black will help determine whether the decedent’s estate is eligible for simplified probate and help explore your other available legal options.

Call my firm – The Law Office of Paul Black – today to get the help you need. I’m proud to serve clients throughout Atlanta, Georgia and surrounding communities.

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