Thank you for requesting this series of free reports. I’m glad that you have taken this important step. I have compiled this series in an attempt to assist you in making sense of the initial parts of the probate process. This period of time can feel overwhelming, especially since there has been a very recent loss of a loved one. These feelings are normal and this first report on trying to open probate and settle an estate is here to help walk you through the process.

Even though there are times that the “official” legal term is the only term that works, I have attempted to avoid using legalese in order to make this report as simple to understand as possible. In the cases where I do need to use legal terms you can find the most common terms defined on the right hand side of the page, in the sidebar.

Let us begin.

Probate Overview

The legal process of distributing the estate of the deceased to heirs, creditors, and beneficiaries is known as Probate. The entire process is begun when a petition is filed with the Probate Court asking the Court to appoint someone as an executor or administrator who will represent the estate. There will be more information on this point later in the report.

When the person has been appointed as the executor or administrator they then must assess the assets and debts of the estate. They must ensure that all valid creditor claims are paid. There is a specific order in which creditors must be paid, this order is set out in Georgia law. When all of the valid creditor claims have been paid there may be remaining property. The remaining property may then be distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased in the manner set out by law.

When all of the distributions have been made, the person who is the representative of the estate may apply to the Probate Court for discharge to close the estate.

If the beneficiaries, heirs or creditors want to object to the petitioner’s requests or to the actions taken by the appointed representative, there are many opportunities during the process for them to do so. If there are objections and they are filed with the court, the case is considered contested. If there are no filed objections the case is then considered to be uncontested. Of course, a contested case is always going to be more complicated than an uncontested case.

One of the first and most important steps is determining whether or not the deceased individual had a will in place. There are two separate sets of options available, one for those who did have a will and one for those who did not. This is why determining whether or not there was a will is necessary before you can move forward with the process.

Wills are often not kept in the places where other paperwork is kept. People may keep them in a safe deposit box at a bank or in a safe or fireproof box at home. You are able to obtain an order from the Probate Court to open a safe deposit box in order to retrieve the will.

Need some help?

If there is a will and it has been left in a safe deposit box, we can help you get it out so you can begin the process. You may be feeling overwhelmed or just want some assistance with handling your loved one’s estate.

We can help. Fill out the form to request a free, no obligation consultation.