Per Georgia probate laws, an estate generally must pay off its creditors before it can distribute assets and property to heirs or beneficiaries.
However, the estate can bypass creditor claims with proper planning. Filing key documents with the Georgia probate court can also stop such claims. Creditors know about these tactics.
Some creditors respect the process. Others, however, get angry and take aggressive action to intimidate family members of the deceased into paying claims from their personal bank accounts or from funds that don’t belong to the estate. These creditors exploit vulnerable and grieving family members, who pay when they have no legal obligation to do so.
Do you need to pay creditors or not? How should you respond?
Once the Georgia probate court appoints an executor or administrator to manage the estate, Georgia law instantly puts a six-month hold on all creditor claims from the date of the appointment. This six-month hold applies to all creditors except to those who hold mortgage or vehicle loans or security interests on the estate’s property. These creditors can still seek to repossess the car or foreclose on a farm or home, if the estate fails to make prompt payments.
However, for all other claims, this six-month window applies. Georgia probate law provides this respite for two main reasons. First, families often need time to get clarity on the financial picture of the estate. Second, probate law seeks to create an orderly process, in which creditors, beneficiaries and heirs are paid in a carefully orchestrated order.
If the estate distributes assets out of turn — for instance, bypasses a creditor and gives property directly to a beneficiary — that creditor can file a claim against the executor or administrator as well as the beneficiary who received the property.
Our office is intimately familiar with the tactics and strategies that creditors use to pressure family members and collect more than their fair share of the estate. We work to maximize how much of the estate goes to beneficiaries and heirs and minimize payments to creditors, because we believe family assets should stay within the family.
If you want to maximize the amount of property that stays in the estate, stop creditors from harassing you, or keep a lender from foreclosing on estate property, get in touch with our experienced Georgia probate team to understand your rights, stop unfair practices and protect the estate. Call us now at (770) 920-6030 to schedule a confidential, one-on-one consultation.