If you’ve recently had a friend or loved one die, the term “probate” may have come up. Unless you’re an attorney, or have had prior experience with probate, you may have no idea what “probate” means. Probate is the process for settling the legal and financial affairs of a deceased person. From the family member’s perspective, the primary goal is usually to distribute the assets owned by the deceased person to beneficiaries named in a will or heirs under Georgia law.

Probate formally begins by filing a petition (and Will, if one exists) with the Probate Court where the deceased person lived. Once an executor or administrator is appointed, he must publish Notice to Debtors and Creditors in the local newspaper inviting creditors to submit claims to the executor or administrator. Creditors must be allowed at least 3 months from the publication dates to submit their claims. Next, valid creditors’ claims are paid (if any) and the estate assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will or the heirs as determined by Georgia law. The final step is filing a “Petition for Discharge” with the Probate Court to close the estate.

The probate process typically takes 6-12 months and can take much longer depending on the complexity of the estate. Probate can also be expensive between filing fees, publication costs, maintenance and upkeep of property, and legal fees. Probate is not required for every estate in Georgia.

Stay tuned for Part 2: When is Probate Required in Georgia?, and

Part 3: Should I Hire an Attorney for Probate in Georgia?