Atlanta Georgia Probate Lawyer
Probate and estate administration are the processes through which a person’s assets are transferred after death. Assets to be transferred under terms of a will go through probate. Assets transferred outside of a will, such as by operation of law, or those planned for in a trust are handled through an administration process. Administration also refers to the process whereby assets are transferred by rules of the state when there is no will. At Brian M. Douglas and Associates we offer services to our clients that help make the process easier, more efficient, and provide peace of mind during a difficult time.
Probate Court has two main functions in Georgia. The first is to administer estates of those who have passed away. If a person has passed away owning any form of assets there is a high possibility that their estate will need to be probated through the Court process. Probate Court oversees the probating of wills, probating estates of those who pass away without a will, appointment and removal of executor or administrators, oversee the sale and disposition of estate property, and ensuring that estates are administering in accordance with Georgia law.
The second function of Probate Court is to oversee guardianships and conservatorships of minors and incapacitated adults. A guardianship is needed for a minor when a child is without natural guardians. A conservatorship is needed for a minor child when they are entitled to own assets valued over $15,000.00. A guardianship and/or conservatorship is needed for incapacitated adults when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. This usually becomes necessary when an adult is disabled or begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Estate Administration is the process in which a deceased’s assets are transferred to their heirs or beneficiaries. There are three main stages in every estate. The first is the appointment stage. This is when the nominated executor, family member or creditor will petition the Court for the deceased’s estate to be opened. If the deceased had a will it must be submitted to the Probate Court (even if you do not need to probate the estate, an original will must be filed with the probate court under Georgia law). If the deceased passed away without a will, they did not have the opportunity to nominate who they would like to represent their estate. In this situation it is typically left up to the heirs to determine who is best suited for the position of administrator.
Once an executor or administrator has been appointed to represent the estate you move into the second stage. The second stage is where all the hard work is done. The appointed executor or administrator will pay the debts of the estate and make distributions to the heirs or beneficiaries. This is also the stage where the assets of the estate are sold. This is the lengthiest and often the most complicated stage due to the fact that each estate is different and may present unique situations that must be dealt with appropriately.
The final stage is the process of closing the estate. In Georgia, you will file a petition for discharge to close the estate, and this petition also releases the executor or administrator from their position. This is the step most people tend to not follow through with, but it is a vital step to ensure the estate has been completed properly. Also, being discharged helps protect the appointed executor or administrator from any future liability.
Trust administration is the process of managing and disbursing a trust’s assets to the named beneficiaries. Every trust will have an appointed trustee that is charged with the responsibility of carrying out the terms of the trust. A trustee could be an individual, corporate entity, or a professional trustee (i.e. attorney, CPA). Trusts will have beneficiaries that are entitled to the assets held within the trust. However, the trustee is the one in charge of ensuring the assets are disbursed to the beneficiaries in the appropriate manner. All trusts are set up differently, and will have specific instructions on how to administer them. If you are a trustee, it is important to consult with a qualified trust attorney to ensure you are properly administering the trust. Being a trustee comes with fiduciary responsibilities and if you fail to uphold those responsibilities it can result in you being personally liable.