Probate Is Not Always the Worst Option
The idea of probate is often thought of as the worst thing that can happen to an individual’s estate. It is considered something that should be avoided at all costs.
However, probate is not always the worst option when it comes to handling an individual’s estate. In many circumstances, going through the probate process is the best option for all considered.
Resolving Disputes Amongst Beneficiaries
Death can often bring out the worst amongst relatives. Whenever a large amount of property or money is at stake, greed will often take over, and family relationships may be torn apart. Many times, it is best for the probate court to get involved and to resolve these disputes for the family.
In the will, the testator names the person that will be responsible for distributing the assets of the estate. This person is sometimes called the executor, and may also be referred to as the personal representative. The probate process is even more preferable when the personal representative is a family member of the deceased and is forced to negotiate the disputes between beneficiaries who are fighting over the property in question.
Rather than make a decision that will be unpopular for the personal representative’s relatives and jeopardize any continuing relationship with these relatives, it can be an easier to punt this decision-making process to a judge who has no stake in the game.
Inappropriate Conduct by Personal Representative
Occasionally, the individual that the testator chose to handle the estate is not the proper person in the end. If the beneficiaries believe that the personal representative is not properly handling the estate or is making poor decisions with respect to the estate assets and debts, they can file a claim in probate court to challenge the actions of the personal representative. This claim alerts the court of the poor decisions or questionable actions on the part of the personal representative and allows the judge to remove the personal representative and appoint a successor personal representative.
The personal representative is charged with making decisions that are in the best interest of the beneficiaries named in the will. This includes marshalling the assets of the estate, alerting creditors and paying the estates debts, and ensuring that the property that the testator wants to go to the beneficiaries gets to these individuals.
If the personal representative is making decisions or is using the property in a way that does not carry out the testator’s intent, the probate process provides checks and balances that protect the testator’s estate and the interest of its beneficiaries. .
Fielding Creditor Claims
If the deceased left more debts than assets, and the personal representative has received multiple claims against the estate by an interested creditors, the probate process can be a big help in handling those claims.
The probate court must first qualify the personal representative. Within 60 days from the date of this qualification, the personal representative must publish a notice to all creditors of the estate of the deceased’s passing, giving them a deadline to file a claim. This notice is published once a week for four weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the personal representative is qualified.
The probate process in Georgia allows creditors to give notice of their claims within three months from the date the last notice was published. If the creditor fails to file a claim within this period, that claim will be barred. However, that does not necessarily extinguish the debt.
If creditors respond by the required deadline, the court will accept claims and will make a determination on how to use the assets of the estate to pay these claims appropriately. Once all claims that are given priority are paid, the remaining assets of the estate are then distributed to the beneficiaries.
If the personal representative does not believe a certain creditor claim is valid, the probate process is the appropriate venue for hashing out this dispute properly and legally.
When No Will Is Left
If the deceased individual died without leaving a valid will, the probate process is the only legal option for handling what happens to the assets and debts of that person. If no valid last will and testament is left, the court will utilizes the Georgia laws on intestate succession in determining how the assets will be distributed.
The Process Is Not Forever
One of the main worries relatives of the deceased have when it comes to probate is that the deceased’s estate will be tied up in the court system for an extended period of time. However, when the process is properly followed, a probate case may take only months to complete from start to finish, rather than years.
If it is believed that probate is the proper avenue to take when it comes to handling the estate of a deceased loved one, it is recommended that a probate attorney be contacted regarding how to proceed.
Contact Brian M. Douglas, LLC Today
If you are not sure you need an attorney, come in for a consultation to discuss your situation. Please contact our office if you or someone you know has recently been appointed as personal representative of a loved one’s estate and has questions about what to do next.
Call us today at 770-933-9009 to schedule your free consultation with a Greater Atlanta area probate lawyer today.