How Long Does Probate Take in Georgia in 2023?
By: John Farrell
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How Long Does Probate Take in Georgia in 2023?
An Overview of the Georgia Probate Process From an Experienced GA Probate Attorney
What Is Probate?
When you pass away, probate is the process for distributing your estate to beneficiaries. This will either mean:
- Confirming a will is valid and dividing the assets in line with your wishes; or
- Dividing your assets in line with the laws of intestacy (if there’s no valid will).
Note: If you want to brush up on the basics of Georgia estate planning (Wills, Probate, Power of Attorney, Revocable Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts and Advanced Healthcare Directives) take a look at these free ebooks.
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What Has to Go Through Probate in Georgia?
Not every asset must go through probate. However, probate is not necessary for certain assets with a clearly named beneficiary e.g. a life insurance policy, or assets held in trust.
A Marietta probate lawyer at the Farrell Law Firm can explain which assets must go through probate as the laws relate to your case.
How Long Does Probate in Georgia Take?
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 settle an estate, I always get two questions. Can you guess what those questions are? They are:
- How long is this going to take?
- How much is this going to cost?
Today, we’re going to talk about the first question.
How Long the Georgia Probate Process Takes
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.
Why GA Probate Can Take Longer Than Expected
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.
How Long Does it Take to Probate a Will in Georgia?
How long to probate a will in GA? Well, it varies by case. Even when estates appoint an Executor in the will, and even when there aren’t many assets to distribute, there’s a chance the process won’t go smoothly.
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.
Steps in the GA Probate Process
There are many steps to the GA probate process. To give you a better sense of how long probate takes in Georgia, here’s a rundown of the major steps involved.
Marshaling the Assets
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.
Paying the Debts and Expenses
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.
Selling Estate Property
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.
Distributing the Estate to Heirs or Beneficiaries
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.
It can be more complex to distribute an estate if there’s no will in place. Another downside is that intestate succession and probate laws could mean that your assets aren’t distributed in line with your true wishes.
Filing Returns and Reports with the Probate Court
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.
Closing the Estate
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.
What are some things that can slow down the process?
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.” A caveat may be filed if someone has concerns about the will’s validity. 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 takes time to mail the relevant documents onwards to them and receive the required signatures. Ensuring all paperwork has been received back in order, and confirming the signatures are valid, all adds time to the process.
there are a large number of beneficiaries, you can see how it could slow down the process to coordinate with everyone involved. However, even estates with only one or two beneficiaries can take time to settle depending on how long it takes to contact the beneficiaries.
Other factors which influence how long probate takes include whether minor children are involved, the complexity of the estate assets, and whether the Executor is willing to act. Our Marietta probate attorneys can explain how long the Georgia probate process may take in your case.
Can GA Probate Be Avoided?
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.
The good news is that it is possible to avoid probate in some circumstances. 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.
One of the easiest ways to avoid probate, though, is by setting up a Revocable Living Trust. Unlike some other types of trusts, you can change or terminate a Revocable Living Trust at any point before your death. It only becomes permanent after your passing.
You can learn more about trusts, including how to set up a Revocable Living Trust, by reading my articles about common types of trusts.
How the Farrell Law Firm Can Help With the Georgia Probate Process
The probate process in Georgia can be time-consuming and complex. To ensure that you complete probate as efficiently as possible, retain the services of an experienced Marietta probate attorney.
The estate planning team at the Farrell Law Firm are committed to making probate as seamless as we can. We will walk you through the process and ensure you feel confident and empowered to make the right decisions for you and your family. Contact the Farrell Law Firm now to retain our services.
Mr. Farrell is the author of Estate Planning for the Modern Family: A Georgian’s Guide to Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney. Ready to learn more about how Mr. Farrell can help you with your estate planning? Here’s where to go next.
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