Georgia law considers a decedent's estate insolvent when the decedent dies without enough money to pay all of his debts, including taxes. As in bankruptcy, Georgia law exempts some assets from creditor attachment. In other words, some assets are not available to creditors to satisfy an estate's debt. Georgia law establishes the order in which debts must be paid from estate assets less exemptions. Each debt must be paid in full before the next in line may be paid. If there are not enough assets left to pay all of the debts remaining, those creditors do not receive payment.
Calculate the amount of the estate's value exempt from creditor attachment-- that is, the amount unavailable to creditors to pay their claims. Georgia allows the value of one year's support for the deceased's family. This amount comes off the top of the estate's value and cannot be accessed by creditors to satisfy their claims.
Order the creditor claims requiring payment according to the hierarchy of creditor payment established by Georgia law. The deceased's funeral expenses must be paid first. Second in line for payment are the expenses for estate administration, including compensation for the personal representative, court fees and costs, and fees for legal and accounting advice. Fourth and fifth in line for payment are the deceased's final illness medical expenses, and state and federal taxes. Sixth are judgments, liens and secured loans. Any other debts not covered in the previous six categories are paid last.
Identify co-signed and guaranteed debts that can't be paid from estate assets. If the estate runs out of assets before a co-signed or guaranteed debt is paid, the co-signor or guarantor is responsible for payment. Contact this person to inform him that he must pay the debt because the deceased's estate does not have the money.
Close the estate by filing a Petition for Discharge with the probate court, after all exemptions and debts are paid or the estate runs out of money, and all accountings and reports required by the Georgia probate court are filed. Send notice of the petition to all beneficiaries, heirs and unpaid creditors. When the court grants the petition, the personal representative is discharged from that position and any further liability to the estate, and the estate is closed. Once the estate is closed, unpaid creditors are prevented from further collection efforts against the estate.
- Justia U.S. Law: Exemptions for Purposes of Bankruptcy and Intestate Insolvent Estates
- Durden & Mills: Are the Heirs Responsible for the Deceased’s Debts?
- Judicial Branch of Georgia: Duties of Personal Representatives of Decedent's Estates in Georgia
- Judicial Branch of Georgia: Georgia Probate Court Standard Forms
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