When a family member or loved one passes away in Georgia with property and the deceased’s family does not live in Georgia, this is a situation of out-of-state probate. How does a friend or family member probate the estate of the deceased if they live far away from the decedent’s home state? There are a host of legal, logistical, and financial questions that need to be answered, especially because of the geographic distance between the friend/relative and the departed.
As probate attorneys, the most common questions we are asked concerning these issues are: Is the Georgia probate process difficult? Would you please explain the Georgia probate process? How long does probate take? Is probate actually needed to handle the decedent’s estate? Why? Do I need to visit Georgia to process probate of the estate? What exactly is probate?
Probate in Georgia under the State’s laws is a relatively streamlined process. Every estate is different, but the pre-planned estate and the more agreeable surviving families are the two main factors that increase the speed and ease of the probate process.
Probated Georgia estates that experience agreement and harmony among family members and will-named beneficiaries are the quickest to process and least stressful for those members or beneficiaries. Conversely, the decedent that lacks a will and that leaves behind the more estranged and/or blended family will have a higher likelihood to have a longer and sometimes more difficult probated estate.
The will-named executor or the family-nominated administrator of the estate who lives outside the state of Georgia actually does not need to visit Georgia to probate the estate. Though it may be speedier and less costly to make a one-time visit to Georgia to probate the estate, sometimes the need for speed and the costs to probate the estate are not determining factors, thereby allowing the executor/administrator to probate from their home state. To probate a Georgia estate from outside Georgia, an attorney is required to represent the probating executor/administrator. The person responsible for probating the estate as an administrator or executor should also be careful to select an attorney who focuses their law practice on the probate of estates. In our “trusts and estates” law firm or Georgia probate attorneys practice, we have seen many estates probated by hired opportunistic professionals when no probate was actually needed. Caveat emptor! Whether probate is needed should always be reviewed by an estate- experienced attorney rather than an opportunist.
When probate in Georgia is needed, the process always requires the executor/administrator to file a petition and the original will – if there is one – in the decedent’s home county probate court. The decedent’s closest surviving relatives are required to be given the opportunity to acknowledge receiving a copy of the will and the petition that would be filed at the court – or they can file an objection. If there is a proper objection to the will, its validity, its contents or even the selection of executor or administrator, that objection will usually delay the completion of probate at least six months. The delay is written into the probate code so as to allow the “parties“ to work it out and resolve the objection or to litigate their differences in the probate court.
In the end, it is often emotionally difficult for surviving families to deal with the death of their loved ones regardless of geography. The role of the helpful probating estate's attorney should make the probate process easier for the client, more efficient, and less stressful with professional experienced legal guidance. Our experience has been that clients receive peace of mind during the probate process and are better off after its completion.