The following are typical questions asked by my clients:
What is probate?
If there is a Will, then the Executor files a petition along with the original Will in the Probate Court in the county where the decedent lived. The Executor is sworn to follow the fiduciary duties required of an Executor and begins the process of paying bills and transferring property to the beneficiaries of the Will. If there is no Will, an Administrator is sworn in and must follow the laws of the state of Georgia when distributing the property.
Should I avoid probate?
You might have already taken steps to avoid the probate process and not even know it. If you hold property, such as your home, as joint tenants with right of survivorship, then the property will be distributed to the co-owner and will not pass through probate. If you have designated someone as the beneficiary of your life insurance and retirement assets (which is not always advisable), then the benefits will be distributed to the designated beneficiary and not pursuant to your will, thus passing outside of probate.
How long does it take to probate an estate?
With a simple will that has followed all of the required procedures and formalities, some estates can be closed in as little as six months after opening. The time an estate is open depends upon certain factors including whether the estate is subject to estate tax, the type of property owned and the beneficiaries designated.
Is probate expensive?
In Georgia, filing fees for probate are approximately $250. Most attorneys and CPA’s charge their normal hourly rate to assist in the probate process, unlike other states where a normal fee is based on a percentage of the probate estate.