Learn Important Probate Essentials, including key things that go wrong in an estate, how to prevent them, and what to do if they happen.
Many times, when a family starts the process of settling a Georgia estate, there is a lot of confusion about what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and how it needs to happen. One way we help our clients with these issues is by showing them a framework for breaking down the entire estate process into three phases:
If all three phases are completed successfully in the right way, then the estate will be complete and done right. Let’s take a brief look at each one of them.
We call the first phase the appointment phase. That is because the first thing that must happen in any Georgia estate is to have someone appointed to represent the estate. We call that person an administrator if there is not a will, and an executor if there is a will. Often, the terms executor and administrator will be combined and referred to as personal representative.
To have an administrator or executor appointed, a petition must be filed with the appropriate probate court asking the court to formally appoint the person nominated in the petition. It is important to note that the formal appointment is necessary even if there is a will – someone named as executor in a will is not automatically the executor. He or she must be officially appointed by the Probate Court.
We call the second phase the administration phase. This is the longest of the three phases, and it is the stage in which we do most of the work of assessing and distributing the property of the estate. Some examples of things that must be done during this phase are:
In a Georgia estate, many times the last thing to happen in the second phase is a distribution to the heirs or beneficiaries.
The third and final stage of settling the estate is called discharge. The main goal of this phase is to make sure everything is wrapped up properly, and that the executor or administrator is properly released from his or her duties from the probate court.
To do that, the executor or administrator of a Georgia estate must file an appropriate petition with the probate court. It is usually best if the heirs and beneficiaries have signed a legal release to release the executor or administrator from any legal liability before the petition is filed, but it is not required.
When filing the petition, the executor or administrator will usually request a discharge from liability as well as from office. If granted by the probate court, this means that the executor or administrator will not have to worry about future liability as a result of managing the estate. When this type of petition is filed, however, the probate court is required to notify all heirs or beneficiaries who did not sign a formal consent. As a result, this provides an opportunity for an unhappy heir or beneficiary to voice concern and challenge the executor or administrator. It can sometimes be a sensitive situation that must be handled properly.
Once the discharge is granted by the probate court, the estate is considered to be closed and everything is complete. If you would like help with your estate situation, have a consultation with a member of our team.
Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice is specifically tailored to your particular situation. Please contact our office to receive specific information advice about your situation.
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