Estates and probate law go together hand in hand. Georgia probate law governs what happens to an estate and the procedures that allow a person's will to be admitted to the court. The Georgia probate process applies to anyone who either dies in the state, or who dies outside of the state leaving property behind in Georgia.
Georgia probate law involves a number of terms not commonly used in other situations. When a person dies, the property she leaves behind is referred to as the estate. The person who dies is either referred to as the decedent or the testator, though the latter is only used if the person left behind a last will and testament. Once the Georgia probate court appoints someone to finalize the estate and distribute any remaining assets, this person is called the personal representative, though he can also be referred to as the executor.
Georgia probate and estate laws come into play both before and after a person dies. If a person wants to write a will, that will must comply with the provisions of the Georgia laws that govern how they can be made. Once the testator (a person who makes a will) dies, the will is then admitted to the probate court to determine of if it is valid. If the person dies without leaving a will (called dying intestate) the court must then name someone to act as the personal administrator itself, instead of relying on the terms of the will.
Probate and estate cases involve numerous parties. Most important is the decedent, but followed closely behind is the personal administrator. It is up to the administrator to inventory estate assets, pay estate debts and distribute any remaining property either in accordance with the terms of the decedent's last will and testament or with Georgia's laws of intestate succession. The probate court itself only plays a part in determining if the will is valid, naming or approving the personal administrator or adjudicating any conflicts that arise between beneficiaries or heirs.
Probate procedure typically start with the will being admitted to probate by the person holding the decedent's will or otherwise notifying the court of his death. After receiving notice, the court must determine if the will is valid. This is done after interested parties (potential heirs or beneficiaries) are notified of the admission of the case to probate. If there are no conflicts, the court then approves or names a personal representative to oversee the probate process and the distribution of assets.
The probate process disposes of an estate. Though estates can continue if the decedent forms a trust that is administered after his death, the probate process if generally a finalization of all the decedent's affairs.