When a loved one passes away, it is generally an emotionally difficult time. Often, family members and other important relations have no desire to contend with the legal aspects of dealing with their loved ones’ possessions. However, it could be important to understand the various aspects of Georgia law and probate litigation, in the event that one is faced with it unexpectedly.
The term “probate” is a word describing the legal process that happens when a person passes away. This person is called the decedent. If a decedent has possessions of note or has an estate, the court will generally need to determine if the person has a valid will, if there is an appointed executor in the case of a will (or a court-appointment administrator in absence of a will), what outstanding debts the decedent possesses and how they will be paid and how any residual assets will be distributed.
There may be a way to skip the probate process if someone passes away without a will. This can occur if all possible heirs agree upon how assets should be divided, and a plan is filed by the heirs with the probate court. This method can speed the process and cut down on the expense and time required to deal with probate court.
If there is a valid will, it can also be important to understand what assets will go through probate, and what assets will not go through probate. Assets that go through probate include bank accounts, individually-owned real estate, stocks and bonds that are individually owned and possessions such as jewelry, furniture, cars and clothing owned solely by the decedent. Assets that do not go through probate can include real estate owned by joint tenants with a right of survivorship, property in a revocable trust, and bank accounts with a POD or TOD clause.
Sifting through estate issues can be daunting even in the best frame of mind. However, understanding probate laws and potential probate litigation when dealing with the loss of a loved one can prove even more confusing. Those in Georgia who are faced with this situation may benefit from contacting a family and probate law attorney to discuss the many options available.
Source: FindLaw, “Georgia Probate Laws“, Accessed on Sept. 7, 2016