As part of my estate planning practice in Marietta, I help prepare estate plans and I help settle estates. Whenever someone comes into the office to office to settle an estate, I always get two questions. Can you guess what those questions are? They are:
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Today, we’re going to talk about the first question. The question of how long does the Georgia Probate Process take is an interesting one because every probate is different. But, every probate takes between several months (6 to 12 months on average) and several years to complete.
There are often multiple court filings. Every time a set of documents is filed, it has to make its way through the processing department, to a judge’s office, and then back to the parties that are involved. These things take time.
If there is a glitch in the process, it can take years. Glitches come from delays in gathering and compiling asset information. We hear many people complain about attorney delays. Delays from the courthouse and their processing of the appropriate paperwork. Delays from financial institutions and title companies. And, delays incurred when the various parties are not proactive.
If there is one party that is not in complete agreement with all aspects of the probate, then the probate shuts down until court hearings can be requested and scheduled where a judge forces the probate to move forward.
So, all probates take anywhere from months to years to complete and most families complain that it takes way too long. That is why it is important to hire an experienced Marietta Probate Attorney to guide your family through this difficult process.
There are several steps in the probate process that contribute to how long the Georgia Probate Process takes a family to navigate. Here are just a few of the steps:
One of the Executor’s or Administrator’s first duties is to locate, identify, and take possession of all of the deceased’s assets controlled by the estate administration. These are called “probate assets.” There are certain assets that are “non-probate assets” like life insurance policies and IRA’s.
You may be ready to pay creditors after a few months. Creditors must be paid before the heirs or beneficiaries receive their inheritance. How do the creditors get notified? You must publish a notice in the local paper to notify the creditors. Of course, some creditors will notify you by sending a bill.
You may need to sell estate property for two reasons. First, you may need the money to pay creditors. Second, it may be easier to give the beneficiaries cash instead of the physical asset.
You may be responsible for filing certain tax returns after the person has passed away. Of course, it is a smart move to consult with an experienced Marietta estate planning attorney to assist you with all of the things you’ll need to do, especially with some of these complicated items.
After all the debts have been paid, you may distribute the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries. If there is a Last Will and Testament, the assets go to the beneficiaries as stated in the Will. If there is no Last Will and Testament, the assets go to the heirs as determined by the law.
You may be required to file certain inventory returns and reports to the Probate Court. Usually, the Order appointing you Executor or Administrator will tell you if you are required to file reports. But, even if it doesn’t, you may be called upon by the Court to file certain inventory returns and reports with the Court.
Once all the debts and expenses of the estate have been paid, any tax returns have been filed, and all remaining assets have been distributed, you can ask the Court to discharge you from being the Executor or Administrator. This is done by filing a Petition for Discharge.
Because every probate is different, it’s difficult to tell ahead of time just how time-consuming a probate will be. One of the things that can slow down the process is when someone files an objection to the Will. In Georgia, this is called a “caveat.” When a caveat is filed, a Judge will typically hold a hearing before making a decision that will push the probate forward.
Another issue that could slow down the Georgia Probate Process is where the Executor lives. If your Executor lives out of state or a long distance from where the Probate will occur, there are extra steps that must be taken in order to get the Executor confirmed as the Executor. (Just because a person is named as an Executor in a Will doesn’t mean they have any power until they are confirmed as the Executor by the Judge). If the Executor doesn’t want to travel into the Court where the Probate will occur, then the probate documents have to be mailed to the local Judge where the Executor lives in order for the required Oath to take place. As you can see, this adds time to the Georgia Probate Process.
Besides the Executor slowing down the Georgia Probate Process, the beneficiaries can slow it down as well. If they live in multiple states, it could add time to mail the documents and get signatures from the parties that are involved. If there are a large number of beneficiaries, you can see how it could slow down the process to coordinate with everyone involved.
These are just a few factors that could add time to how long the Georgia Probate Process takes. Additional factors could include whether minor children are involved or if real estate that should have been probated years ago is now tied up in the current probate.
As you can imagine, those that have been through the Probate Process for a loved one try to find ways that they can avoid that process for their family. I’ve written some great articles on 3 simple ways you can avoid the probate costs and you can access that article by clicking here.
But, the most popular method to avoid the probate process is through a Revocable Living Trust. You can access other articles I’ve written about the Top 10 most common types of Trusts by clicking here.
You may have heard that probate is easy, but it isn’t. As you can see, there are many things you need to do besides just filing the Will at the Courthouse. This is why it is important to work with an experienced and seasoned Marietta Probate Attorney to help you navigate this process. Then, you’ll be able to tell your friends and family just how long the Georgia Probate Process takes.