When a loved one passes, we take the time to remember them and begin to take steps to heal. During this time, we also have to contend with the settling of their estate and everything that entails.
Sometimes, in order to settle your loved one’s estate you have to go through a process called Probate.
Probate is designed to create a “final accounting” upon death. It is the legal process of verifying that a Will is valid, and takes place in one of two instances.
- If a person dies leaving behind a Will.
- If the deceased has died intestate. Intestate means that they had no estate plan in place prior to their death.
If your loved one planned ahead, this process can be simpler, shorter, less expensive, or all together, unnecessary.
As a Probate Attorney, I’ve seen what it’s like for the families of those who do and do not take the time to put a plan in place. I’ve seen this process bring out the best and the worst in people.
So, what happens if you die without a plan in place?
In Georgia, if you die without a Will, the government creates one for you. This plan is called “Intestate Probate” and it guarantees government interference in the disposition of your estate. The government’s plan requires documents to be filed and approved in order to process every aspect of your estate. It demands that your assets be distributed to those whom they consider proper heirs. The order distribution is determined by who your next of kin is. If you have no known heirs, the state keeps your assets.
Your estate is also left open to having to pay death taxes. Depending on the size of your estate, up to 40% of it can be considered taxable.
This entire process is done in full view of the public.
So, how long does Probate take?
The probate process, can last anywhere from 10 months to 3 years. It’s hard to predict how the courts will rule, how hard parties will fight, and what other obstacles will come up during the process.
Though it’s not required by law to hire an attorney, hiring one to help guide you through the process is advisable. An experienced probate attorney will be well versed in probate laws, court procedures, and litigation. They will help you recognize potential issues before they become emergencies and help you avoid unnecessary delays.
There are many steps you can take to protect your estate. If you have a plan in place, you can control how your estate is distributed, decrease the amount of death taxes that have to be paid (or completely eliminate them) and you can rest assured that your family will have an easier time throughout the process.
An estate plan will guide your loved one’s in honoring your wishes by providing them with a roadmap for handling your legacy.
As an Estate Planning attorney, I get to witness the relief our clients have on the day they sign their estate planning documents. It might not seem like a joyous occasion, the day your Will becomes effective, but to those who have gone through the process, this day brings the peace of mind they have been missing.
This day means that they are prepared, and have a plan in place, for when the inevitable comes.
This day means their family can breathe easier knowing that their loved one’s wishes are laid out to be followed without issue.
Planning ahead can make all the difference to you and to those you leave behind.
Learn more about Probate and Estate Planning by signing up for our newsletter at: Newsletter
Get more tips on what steps you can take to protect your legacy by following us on
Read about the steps you can take to prepare to create your estate plan by visiting:
Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die
- Common Estate Planning Mistakes - February 8, 2023
- When To Update Your Estate Plan - January 5, 2023
- Executor of an Estate in Georgia - December 7, 2022