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Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult enough. When it comes to handling their affairs after they are gone, it can make it even more difficult. If you are the next of kin or listed as the executor of the estate, you may find yourself handling all the financial and legal aspects of their passing, rather than processing your own grief.
Probate is the legal process of authenticating a last will and testament if one exists. It includes locating and determining the value of the decedent’s assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and then distributing the remainder of the estate to their beneficiaries.
Navigating the probate process in Georgia can be intimidating, especially if it is your loved one who is recently deceased. With our extensive experience as probate attorneys, we can guide you through the process and will do so with compassion and support.
DOES THE WILL HAVE TO BE AUTHENTICATED?
Once a person has died, it must be proven that the will is current and valid, and that it was not signed under duress. If legal changes have occurred since a will was established — such as getting married, divorced, having children, or the executor or beneficiaries have died — they can potentially render the will invalid. The person who is in possession of the will at the time of death is responsible for filing it with the probate court as soon as possible.
HOW DO I FILE A WILL WITH THE PROBATE COURT?
An application or petition must be filed, and will be the first in a long list of steps that your probate attorney can assist you with. In determining the validity of the will, there may be a court hearing to allow all beneficiaries and heirs to attend and be heard. A beneficiary is a person or entity who receives a profit, advantage, or benefit, while an heir is someone who would inherit something by default.
IN THE PROBATE PROCESS?
HOW IS THE EXECUTOR OF THE WILL CHOSEN?
The executor or personal representative will act on behalf of the deceased to execute the last wishes and settle accounts after death. Typically, an executor will be appointed in a will, but if one is not, the courts will declare the next of kin such as a surviving spouse, parent, or sibling.
The responsibilities of an executor include:
- Accounting for all assets
- Determining the value of assets
- Settling the decedent’s debts
- Distributing the assets
These responsibilities involve a lot of sifting through legal documents, going through deeds, titles, and other verifications of property, among many other tedious tasks. Your best option is to have a probate attorney go through these things on your behalf so you can focus on yourself and your family.
IS THERE A WAY TO AVOID THE PROBATE PROCESS?
Avoiding probate can help make the grieving process easier on your family in the event of your death. Additionally, the probate process is public, meaning that everyone has access to the records and can hunt their way through your personal business and division of your most personal assets. You can protect your privacy and the privacy of your surviving loved ones by avoiding probate. Here are some ways that you can potentially avoid probate:
- Have a small estate – smaller estates are not subject to federal taxation
- Gift your assets while you are alive
- Make accounts payable on death
- Own joint property
- Create an effective estate plan
If you are making a plan for after you are gone, you may be able to spare your family the lengthy and emotional probate process. You should consult with a probate attorney to determine the best way to protect your family’s future and to make the proper arrangements for them.
If you’re dealing with the probate process, you shouldn’t face it alone. We can help you get everything sorted so you can focus on the emotional needs of you and your family. Let us be there for you and provide compassionate legal support in your time of need. Reach out to us today for a consultation
ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEYS SERVING ATLANTA, GEORGIA AND SURROUNDING AREAS
Have you recently lost a family member? Are you overwhelmed with organizing the decedent’s assets and settling their debts?
Our expertise in probate law can help you and your family move through this painful process smoothly and with confidence — all while knowing your interests are being looked after. Give us a call if you are in need of probate advice or representation.
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Tell us about your situation, then request a time for us to meet and discuss your options