As a special type of court, a probate court offers jurisdiction on cases of property and debts of a deceased, while ensuring that the creditors of such an individual are paid and the remaining assets properly distributed among legal beneficiaries. This process usually involves a legal procedure.
The majority of the probate courts in Georgia regulate wills and bequests, delegate and administer watchmen and conservators, and issue marriage and weapons convey licenses. A popular court in Georgia is Dekalb County Probate Court located in Decatur, Georgia. There are county probate courts though, throughout the state.
Also, a portion of the courts arbitrate traffic offenses and some hear criminal cases. Others handle essential records. A portion of the judges fills in as their district's Supervisor of Elections.
Several states run a specialized probate court, although it is referred to as Chancery Court, Orphan’s Court, or Surrogate’s court in other states. During the procedure, another person is assigned and vested with the power to control the properties of the deceased person, with the mandate of paying all debts properly and distributing the remaining asset to the right beneficiaries. Records in Georgia can be accessed through the State’s website.
If a deceased died without a will, the state’s probate law, particularly the law of intestate succession, holds that the property of such an individual is distributed to their next of kin. This part of the law further describes the order in which the next of kin inherit. If there is a surviving spouse, he or she is entitled to a share of the decedent's property. Likewise, there is an order, as stipulated by the law, in which the siblings, grandchildren, parents, aunts, and uncles all inherit the deceased’s property. However, there may be some slight variations in details from state to state.
A person that has a will before his or her death – usually the last will – will have his or her property distributed to the people or organizations that have been designated to have them. Before a will can be probated, the court is expected to make a valid pronouncement on its validity, as well as on any contest against the will’s validity. Irrespective of the state of incidence, a surviving spouse is entitled to a particular share of the property, and this is referred to as the surviving spouse’s elective share. However, the exact amount differs across states.
The first step of a probate process is filing a petition for probate by an individual, usually a relative or someone designated in a will, with the probate court. Except when already filed in one of the states that allow will filing before death, the copy of the will must also be filed alongside the petition (if there is one). Note that official probate court forms are always on the ground in certain states.
After the petition filing, the court issues an order that puts someone in charge of the estate – a personal representative or executor. However, in cases where the deceased has no will, such an individual may be called an administrator, and if there is a will, the person is named an executor. Almost all wills designate someone to handle this task.
The roles of the personal representative include the proper handling of the estate\s administration, including opening a bank account for the estate, validating claims by creditors and ensuring they are paid, providing adequate publications of legal notices in a newspaper, notifying beneficiaries as appropriate, filing court documents and a final tax return for the deceased, overseeing the sales of assets (if required), and the transfer of assets to the assigned beneficiaries. While all these tasks may be overwhelming for a personal representative, the process becomes easier when they hire a probate lawyer to assist them.