How Long Do You Have To Open An Estate

“How long do I have to open an estate after a loved one passes away?”

We get asked this a lot at our office. This question can take different forms:

  • “How long do I have to file the will for probate?”
  • “How long do I have to get someone appointed to manage the estate?”
  • “How long do I have to go to the probate court?”

So what’s the answer? How long do you have to open an estate after a loved one passes away?

The question itself is deceptive.

There is no timeframe under Georgia law that says you must open an estate by a set number of days, weeks or months after someone passes away.

From a practical standpoint, you’re going to want to open the estate relatively soon.

The typical timeframe for most people to open an estate is about two weeks to as long as six months. Any longer than that is still fine legally, but is uncommon and can cause practical problems.

open an estate

Things You Can’t Do Until You Open An Estate

By not opening an estate quickly after a loved one passes, what are some things you would miss out on?

Real estate. There’s no ability to transfer real estate that a deceased person owns without opening an estate.

Funds in an account. If there are funds in a bank account or an investment account, and those funds are not a beneficiary designated account, then there is no way to gain access to those funds.

Any other titled assets or transactions that need to occur. If there were any other titled assets or any other transactions that needed to occur, those transactions could not occur either.

An example of this is if a family needs to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. In order to pursue that lawsuit, the estate would have to be open because the estate would have to be a party to that.

Take This Important Step If You Have The Will

While there’s no time limit to open an estate, if you’re in possession of an original will, there is a legal obligation for you to turn over the will to the appropriate probate court.

You need to take that will into the court and hand it over to the clerk of the court. I’d recommend that you take that action within the first two months after your loved one passes.

If you have any other questions or would like to talk about your own situation, please give our office a call at (770) 920-6030.