The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm of Michael R. Bascom
Probate is the court managed process where a deceased person’s assets are distributed according to his or her will, after all taxes, expenses and debts are paid.
Probate can be time consuming, frustrating, and stressful – particularly when you are grieving the loss of a loved one.
We can guide you and your family through each step of the probate process.
When a loved one passes away with just a Will their family will put the estate through a process called “Probate”, or if there was no estate plan the process is called “Administration.”
Probate and Administration are the court-managed proceedings where assets are counted, and then after taxes, expenses and debts are paid, the remaining assets are distributed either according to the Will or according to the law of intestacy (if you don’t have a will). While most of our clients set up their estate via a living trust, which avoids this process entirely, the majority of estates will have to go through probate. Having a Will does not avoid probate, it guarantees it.
We are often asked to help families go through the Probate or Administration processes. We meet a lot of new clients for the first time helping them with the Probate or Administration for a recently deceased family member. (Most of those families choose to do comprehensive planning with our law firm after having gone through the Probate or Administration process once with a loved one.)
No two Probates are ever the same, but they begin with locating the Will and filing a Petition with the Probate Court. All of the heirs need to either sign off on the Petition before it is filed, or they must receive notice in writing so that they have the opportunity to review the Will and make any appropriate challenges or contests.
In an Administration, a Petition must be filed with the Probate Court and all the heirs must either sign off on the Petition (which also nominates the person who will serve as Personal Representative) or they must receive notice in writing so that they have the opportunity to voice their appropriate challenges or contests.
In either case, once the Petition has been accepted, a Personal Representative (formerly called “Executor” or “Administrator”) will be appointed. Their job is to gather all the assets and then pay any taxes, expenses and debts. After this, the remaining assets are distributed in accordance with the Will or intestacy rules (default estate plan created for you by the Georgia legislature if there is no Will).
Some assets will pass directly to the beneficiary and not go through Probate or Administration. This would include life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities that designate a beneficiary, and TOD (transfer on death) or POD (payable on death) accounts that designate a beneficiary. Assets held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship will likewise pass directly to the joint tenant. Even though these assets are not part of the Probate or Administration, they are counted as part of the “estate” for tax purposes and as part of any existing or future Medicaid or Veteran’s benefits applications.
People that pass away owning property in multiple states will have an ancillary Probate or Administration in each state where they own property.
It can take a lot of time and be extremely frustrating to accomplish all of this. It’s easier to make mistakes when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Don’t let the process overwhelm you. We are here to help you navigate the process so you can settle the estate as quickly, fairly, and inexpensively as possible. Let us lift that burden off your shoulders, so you can concentrate on handling your grief and preparing for your future.
If a loved one has recently passed away and you would like a no-cost, confidential consultation to discuss the next steps, please call our office to schedule a meeting at 770-889-3911. We are here to help.