Georgia Probate Lawyers

Losing a loved one is a tragic event. No one wants to consider what they need to do afterward.

Man signing a probate contract in Georgia at his lawyer’s office

However, there are a lot of administrative details that need to be attended to so your loved one’s assets are properly handled.

Bridges-Farmer has spent decades working in Georgia to build a firm of highly skilled probate lawyers who are here to help people like you.

Whether you need help probating a Will or determining what to do if your loved one died without one, we can help.

Contact us today at (678) 395-7506.

 

What is the probate process?

Probate is the process of authenticating a Last Will and Testament before a court to wrap up the deceased’s assets and distribute them to their heirs named in the Will. The process involves locating the person’s assets, having the assets evaluated, paying any final bills, advertising for creditors, paying final taxes, and distributing the residue and gifts of the estate to the beneficiaries.

The process is meant to finalize the wishes laid out by the deceased in their written Will.

However, if someone dies without a Will, it can be far more complicated.

Some people die intestate, or without a valid will. In these cases, they may not have made one, may have made it under duress, or there could be an error in the will.

Without a clear direction for the residue of their estate, the intestate estate will pass to their closest relatives, with part of their estate passing to the government.

 

Steps in the Probate Process

 

  1. Authenticating the Last Will and Testament

  2. Georgia requires anyone in possession of the deceased’s will to file it with the probate court as soon as reasonably possible. This allows the estate to be opened so funds can be distributed. It sometimes accompanies the filing of the death certificate.

  3. Appointing the Executor or a Personal Representative

  4. The executor is the person in charge of overseeing the probate process and estate administration. They are typically chosen by the deceased and named in the Will.

  5. Locating the Deceased’s Assets

  6. One of the first tasks of the executor is to find all of the assets that the deceased owned. This includes physical assets, such as belongings or real property, and virtual assets, such as bank accounts and insurance policies.

    Sometimes assets are hidden, making it difficult for executors to find all of the items.

    The executor can then take possession of the items or place them in a safe location where they will be stored until they are distributed.

  7. Determining Date of Death Values

  8. The executor must get account statements and appraisals of items to determine the date of death values of the deceased’s assets.

    The executor may be required to submit a written report to the court listing the assets and their value, as well as how that value was determined.

  9. Advertising for Creditors

  10. The deceased’s creditors must be notified of their death. This is typically done by placing an advertisement in a local paper with a notice of death.

    Doing this gives creditors a period of time to come forward to claim money owed. If they miss this window, then they are unable to collect the debt.

  11. Paying Debts

  12. Once valid creditors are determined, the executor will use funds from the estate to pay all of the debts and final bills.

  13. Preparing Final Tax Returns

  14. The executor must prepare a final tax return for the year that the deceased dies. Any taxes owing are paid out of the estate. This may require liquidating some assets.

  15. Distributing the Estate

  16. Once all of the above steps have been completed, what remains is distributed to the beneficiaries according to the designations provided for in the deceased’s Will.

    Typically, the executor will need to provide a final accounting to ensure all beneficiaries sign off on the amounts distributed and so they are aware of the executor’s debt payments.

 

How long does the probate process take?

The probate process can take anywhere from several months to several years.

The time it takes to complete the probate process depends on:

  • Trust and estate laws in the specific state
  • Where property is located
  • The value of the estate
  • If there is a Will and it is found to be valid
  • If anything is contested by beneficiaries
  • How many bank accounts and hidden assets the deceased had
  • If a spouse was not adequately provided for

Services We Offer:

Trust Administration

There are many forms of trusts created for different reasons. Maybe your loved one wanted to avoid probate or tried to make things simpler after their death.

Managing a trust can be confusing and overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. Serving as a trustee requires you to follow specialized laws, which can confuse even experienced trustees. Sometimes the legalese makes it impossible to understand exactly what your duties and responsibilities are.

Trusts last longer than estate administration since many are drawn out for years. This makes everything more complicated. More time means more opportunities for tensions to rise, for in-fighting and disagreements, and for someone to try to mismanage the funds.

Taking on the role of trustee is a serious job that many underestimate. You are required to follow certain rules according to Georgia law, but you also have to balance them with maintaining family harmony. Since you’re managing property for other people, there is a lot of liability involved which can quickly get overwhelming.

If you have been appointed as a trustee in Georgia, contact the probate lawyers at Bridges-Farmer today. We can help you decipher the complex legal language, teach you how to carry out your duties efficiently, and offer oversight to calm worried family members.

If you need help making sure a trust is being managed properly, call us today at (678) 395-7506.

 

Probate & Estate Administration

If your lost loved one owned real property, stocks, bonds, vehicles, or had a bank account, you’ll likely need to open the estate in probate court in Georgia. Probating the deceased’s estate allows for an executor to be appointed to handle their affairs.

Whether your loved one had a Will or died intestate, chances are you will need to probate their estate.

The administration of an estate can get extremely complicated. Between posting ads for creditors and handling potential family disputes, the stress can overwhelm an executor. It’s difficult to pass fiduciary accounts and file tax returns when emotions are running high.

At Bridges-Farmer, we know that stepping into the shoes of a deceased parent or grandparent can be overwhelming. Concluding their affairs can feel impossible when you’re still mourning their loss. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Our probate and estate administration services mean that we will handle the process of opening your loved one’s estate, managing creditors and family contestants, bequeathing gifts, and ultimately closing their estate once everything has been settled.

Although it is not as expensive or complicated to probate an estate in Georgia, it can easily overwhelm someone who isn’t used to the process.

That’s where we come in. Our expert Georgia probate lawyers have been working in this field for years. Forms that might take you hours will take us minutes, thanks to our specialist knowledge.

Our goal is to provide skilled, efficient legal representation to ease your burden. We will guide you through the courts, directing you through the maze of paperwork, and explaining anything you don’t understand along the way.

We are here to decode the mystery of estate administration so you can resolve your loved one’s estate to ensure they are fully at peace.

 

Estate Disputes and Will Contests

Death is an incredibly stressful and emotional time. While we wish it would bring everyone together, sometimes the emotional baggage associated with stress can drive a wedge between people.

Many families who love and care for one another are quickly overcome with their grief, taking it out on each other when tensions run high. They begin to fight over family heirlooms, make claims of promised cash legacies, or reexamine past family conflicts.

In the case of an estate, these disputes can lead to people contesting the Will.

When you’re dealing with your family, your instinct is to keep the peace, sometimes by sacrificing doing the right thing. As the executor, your job is to follow the wishes of your deceased loved one to ensure their wishes are met.

We can help you do what’s needed to be done to preserve family harmony while ensuring the Will is adhered to. As an outside party, we can help mediate the issues to find a peaceful solution.

In some cases, disputes or contests are needed to counter something that isn’t right with the estate of your loved one. For example, the executor may not be communicating information or may not know how to act in their position. Other times, someone is getting greedy and tries to steal money.

Whenever this occurs, action must be taken. Contact a Georgia probate lawyer to ensure you get the inheritance you’re entitled to.

 

Conservatorships & Adult Guardianships

Sometimes adults aren’t able to manage their own affairs without assistance. Often it is because they are:

  1. A developmentally disabled child who the parents need to care for
  2. A parent or grandparent needs assistance from a child from finances and medical decisions, especially if they have a loss of cognitive function
  3. An accident or sudden illness leaves a person unable to communicate their wishes; although this is typically for a short period of time

When a loved one loses the ability to care for themselves and make responsible decisions regarding their health and assets, you may need to seek court permission to act on their behalf. However, you must do this after serious thought and after putting together a strong case. If you lose, the court could ban you from seeking guardianship again for two years.

If you are looking to take over the care of someone’s finances, you are a “conservator”. If you’re looking to handle their medical decisions, then you are a “guardian.” In some cases, you only need to be one. In others, you may need to apply to be both.

Sometimes, families don’t agree on whether or not a person should be put in charge of their loved one’s administrative decisions. They may wish for another person to take their place, or for the loved one to retain their decision-making power. When this happens, the conservatorship or adult guardianship is contested and may need court intervention.

We help individuals get approval from the court to help protect their loved one’s health and finances. We know that it is a difficult decision to admit your loved one is no longer mentally capable. That’s why we strive to use our skilled Georgia probate lawyers to make the process as easy as possible for you.

Minor Conservatorships and Minor Claims

If money is left to a child through a will or settlement, they are not capable of making decisions for it on their own. They need a conservator put in place to protect their financial interests, often by holding the money in trust until the child comes of age.

We have helped parents gain conservatorships when:

  1. Their child was injured in a personal injury accident and was awarded a settlement. However, the child cannot receive the money as they are a minor, so it is awarded to the legal authority.
  2. A child has lost a parent and is entitled to receive money from wrongful death. However, they cannot accept the money until they are of legal age, thus it is held by an authority appointed by the court.
  3. A child receives an inheritance after a family member passes away. Whether this is monetary or property, the assets cannot be delivered until the child is 18. An authority will need to be appointed to be a “conservator” for the child.

The goal of a conservator is to hold the money for the child until they come of legal age, or an age determined by a trust. However, the funds may be used for their health and education throughout their lives, such as being applied towards their college tuition payment when they are 17.

It is critical to appoint a trustworthy, knowledgeable conservator for your child to protect their best interests. Although you might mean well, your lack of awareness of the system could lead to you getting denied the right to ask as a conservator.

Let us do the hard work of dealing with the legalities so you can focus on the hard work of parenting.

Trust Disputes

While trusts are often created to make things less difficult, they frequently complicate matters. Having someone else in charge of your money would make anyone skeptical. Even if families get along all the time, giving one member complete control over finances will quickly devolve into fights.

Trust disputes commonly occur when someone stops receiving their trust money or if the trustee begins to act unethically.

You have a right to protect your inheritance. Hire a Georgia probate lawyer to examine the trust administration to ensure the trustee is behaving ethically. We can provide the oversight needed to ensure that the assets are managed properly.

Whether you need a peaceful solution or fiduciary litigation, Bridges-Farmer is here to help.

Fiduciary Litigation

If an estate or trust is poorly handled, you may need to file fiduciary litigation.

No one wants to believe that their families would be torn apart by money, but for many, this is a reality. With tensions high, people behave poorly and choose to mismanage funds.

If you notice something off about your loved one’s estate administration, you should take action. Call Bridges-Farmer to speak with a highly skilled Georgia probate lawyer who will help you file a claim.

Our expert attorneys can help you with the following litigation:

  • Will and trust contests
  • Litigation between executors or trustees and beneficiaries regarding fiduciary duties
  • Disputes over trust accounting
  • Suits to modify, terminate or reform trusts
  • Suits to substitute or remove trustees and/or executors
  • Federal tax disputes
  • Litigation between financial institutions and their customers regarding fiduciary duties
  • Breach of fiduciary duty

Contact us today for assistance.

Year’s Support

Spouses in Georgia have a duty to protect and provide for their partner and minor children.

After a spouse has passed away, the surviving spouse or minor children can file a petition for Year’s Support. This sets aside an amount sufficient to support the spouse for 12 months out of the estate’s funds while the estate is under administration.

You should consider filing for Year’s Support if:

  • The estate is insolvent, so you can ensure your wellbeing is a priority over expenses and creditor claims
  • The estate is very small, so you can speed up the process and avoid creditors
  • There is so Will, so you can efficiently and cheaply petition to get these funds
  • To set aside real property taxes on a residence
  • If the spouse was omitted from the Will, especially if they are a spouse of a second or third marriage

You must file the Year’s Support claim within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. This doesn’t give you much time to learn the complicated legal process.

That’s where we come in. Our expert Georgia probate lawyers can administer the Year’s Support petition and ensure you get the assets you deserve to provide for you and your children. We know that losing a loved one is challenging. No one should have to lose a loved one and their lifestyle all in one day.

Let us help you preserve your way of life. If your spouse passed away without setting aside enough money for you and your children, call Bridges-Farmer. We can help you determine if Year’s Support is right for you.

Power of Attorney

Setting up power of attorney is an important part of any end-of-life planning. Naming powers of attorney allows one or more people to act on your behalf if you are incapable of doing so yourself.

They may be limited or wide-reaching, sometimes only allowing a person to act on the sale of a home, or otherwise allowing them to control their entire finances. Sometimes the limit comes in the form of time, where a person may be designated as a power of attorney for a limited period. For example, if someone is in a medically induced coma from an accident, their power of attorney would assume responsibility for making their medical decisions.

To operate as a power of attorney, there must be a formal contract in writing. This must be signed by the person relinquishing their rights and typically outlines the circumstances under which they would like the attorney to assume responsibility.

Without a power of attorney previously appointed, the court may need to appoint someone to manage your finances and health if you become unable to do so yourself. This will prevent you from having a say in who will control your finances and your medical decisions.

It can be demeaning and defeating to have someone take control over your life if you did not choose them. That is why we highly recommend clients plan powers of attorney ahead of time.

However, like all plans, sometimes powers of attorney don’t protect you as intended. In some cases, individuals take advantage of their power to commit financial abuse or fraud against someone incapable of preventing their scams.

If you suspect someone is not using their powers of attorney properly, contact our Georgia probate lawyers. Our highly skilled team wants the best for your relatives. We will fight to ensure that they are not suffering under the hands of an ill-intentioned attorney.

Looking for an inheritance attorney?

If you believe that your inheritance is being mishandled, call a Georgia probate lawyer today.

We will examine your case to determine whether or not you are getting the money you rightfully deserve. Call Bridges-Farmer today to book a free consultation.