Probate & Estate Administration

When a family member dies, it becomes necessary to administer that person's estate.

This generally means:

a) identifying all of the assets;
b) identifying all of the debts;
c) paying the outstanding debts; and then,
d) distributing the remaining assets.

Assets and property are divided and distributed according to the Last Will and Testament. If there is not a Last Will And Testament, then the estate is divided according to a formula established by Georgia law. 

Sometimes an estate bank account must be opened. This will depend upon the size of the estate and the types of assets. In addition, a final tax return must be filed. 

Estates are administered through the Probate Court in the county of the decedent's last residence. 

The probate process is not very difficult or expensive. Many people accomplish an estate administration without the use of a lawyer. The Probate Court will provide the forms. The Probate Court will sometimes require the estate administrator to obtain a bond from an insurance company, but even this is not very costly. 

A lawyer is generally used when:

1. The estate is fairly large and/or real estate titles will be transferred and new deeds must be prepared. 
2. The family wishes to minimize the emotional burden of estate administration by having a lawyer perform most of the work.
3. The family is busy with their own lives and is willing to hire a professional.