Learn Important Probate Essentials, including key things that go wrong in an estate, how to prevent them, and what to do if they happen.
It happens all too often. A family member passes away and after the funeral, thoughts turn to probate and settling the estate. Someone takes charge and decides that they are the right person to be the administrator of the estate. What if you don’t agree? What if you think they’re the absolute wrong person to handle the estate? What can you do?
The good news is you do have options. What your options are depend on whether your loved one left a will or not. In this article, we’re going to focus on estates where no will was left. These are called intestate estates.
To start, let’s look at the general process of getting someone appointed in an intestate estate. First, a petition must be filed with the appropriate probate court. The petitioner (the person asking to become the administrator) may get signed acknowledgements from the other heirs supporting the petition. If all heirs sign, then the appointment process is much easier and will go through the court unopposed. If, on the other hand, all heirs do not consent to the petition then the case gets a lot more complicated.
Once the probate court receives the petition to open the estate, the court must send official notice to any heirs who did not consent to the petition. Note: there are some petitions that are sneakier, and do not require the probate court to notify anyone. This article does not address those petitions.
When the notice is sent by the probate court, the clock starts ticking. If an heir does not file a formal objection (usually called a caveat) by the deadline, then the estate will proceed forward and the petitioner may be appointed as administrator.
So, how do you stop this?
First, if you truly disagree with a certain person being appointed as administrator, then do not sign a consent saying you agree. You are not required to sign the consent, so don’t be pressured into doing so. At some point, the petitioner will decide to file his or her petition without obtaining your signature. You may not know when the petitioner files, so pay attention to your mail and look for a letter from the Probate Court. If you live in Georgia, the Court may send a sheriff to deliver the notice personally.
Second, after you receive the notice you will have 10 to 13 days to file a response. Check the Court’s letter for the exact deadline. You must file a formal objection in the Probate Court before the deadline expires. If you do not, then the Court may grant the petition and appoint the administrator.
Your objection must have a legal basis. An objection like this is a complicated undertaking, and we strongly recommend you have a Georgia probate attorney help you with it. After the objection is filed, there will be a period of discovery where each party gathers evidence to support their position. There may be one or more motions filed, depending on the situation, and those motions may have hearings in probate court. Finally, after discovery has concluded, there will be a final hearing on the petition or objection where each side will present their case to the judge.
There you have it. As you can imagine, there is a lot of thought, analysis, and work that goes into each stage of the process to be successful. If you are not sure what to do next, we recommend you get professional help. If you would like our office to help you, please schedule a consultation.
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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