When a will is probated in Georgia, it goes to the probate court, which checks whether the will is valid and oversees the distribution of the deceased person's property according to the will. The executor of a Georgia will may work directly with the probate court to probate the will, or may hire an attorney at the estate's expense to help him probate the will.
Petition to Enter Safe Deposit Box
Before probate begins, any interested person may file a Petition to Enter Safe Deposit Box with the probate court if he believes the will is in the deceased person's safe deposit box. If the petition is granted, the bank may open the safe deposit box. The bank must file any will found in the box directly with the probate court and must give any insurance policies directly to the beneficiaries named in the policies. The person who filed the petition may receive any burial instructions or burial insurance found in the safe deposit box. Everything else stays in the safe deposit box until the Georgia probate court appoints an executor.
Form of Probate
The executor or person filing the will must choose between two forms of probate: the solemn form or the common form. Solemn form probate requires the executor to give notice to everyone who might have an interest in the will, and it becomes binding when the estate is closed. Common form probate does not require notice, but it also does not become binding up to four years after the executor is named. This gives interested parties a chance to contest the will.
Petition for Year's Support
The surviving spouse or minor children of the deceased person may file a petition with the probate court to receive enough property from the estate to support themselves for one year. A surviving spouse and/or children may take priority over anyone having a claim to the disposed of property. Persons filing a Petition for Year's Support must give notice to all interested parties.
Appointing Executor and/or Guardian
A Georgia probate court may appoint an executor if there is no executor named in the will, or the executor named in the will cannot or will not serve, according to the Official Code of Georgia section 53-6-20. The court may also appoint a guardian for any of the deceased's minor children who have been left without a parent. The deceased person may have named a guardian in the will, or the court may choose a suitable guardian if there is no named guardian or the named guardian cannot or will not take the children.
The executor of a will is required to make an inventory of the estate. The inventory should include all of the deceased person's property. It should be filed with the probate court, and a copy should be sent to every interested person, according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 53-7-30. The probate court may remove an executor who does not return a correct inventory.
Settling Claims and Debts and Distributing Property
Once the inventory is completed, the executor may move to the next step of the Georgia probate process, which is settling any claims against the estate, paying the debts of the estate and distributing the estate's remaining assets to the people listed in the will, according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 53-7-43. If the will does not distribute any assets, it does not have to be probated.
Discharging Executor's Duties
The executor must file a petition for discharge with the probate court once the estate's debts are paid and its assets are distributed. The probate court reviews the estate to ensure all loose ends are tied up, then discharges the executor from his duties and closes the estate, according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 53-7-50.
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