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What Brings You Here?

Welcome to the fastest and easiest way to find out about Inheritance Law in Georgia.

Are you...

... an inheritor wondering how to get access to the deceased's property?
... named as an executor or trustee in a loved one’s will or living trust and you need to know how the probate process works, or
... planning ahead now, and want to learn how to avoid probate to make it easy for your loved ones to get your property after you die.

This site will provide you with tips and tools and checklists that you can use in Georgia to transfer property at death as quickly and affordablbly as possible. 

Six Things to Keep In Mind About Georgia Inheritance Law

Here are 6 things to keep in mind about probate and transferring property at death:

1. Much of your property never goes through probate or your will

You may not realize that, if your bank accounts or other accounts have a named beneficiary on file with the financial institution, that account will never pass through your will and will bypass the probate process. 

Many estates can avoid probate altogether, because assets will go to named beneficiaries because they are held as pay-on-death or  joint tenancy accounts, or in retirement accounts with a named beneficiary or life insurance, or the assets were held in a living trust, and whatever is left is small enough to fall under a state's small estates limit.

Property That Avoids Probate in Georgia

If you are a beneficiary or a joint owner "with right of survivorship" (WROS), you can typically claim the asset by dealing with the financial institution directly, and provide them with a death certificate and proof of your identity as a beneficiary.

2. Probate is governed by state law and is handled by the county court where the deceased person resided or owned property

If you haven't done so already, make sure you enter the zip code or at least select the state and county of residence for the person who died, to learn about the probate law and probate court procedure for that state and county.

PROBATE COURT

Georgia Probate Court Finder: Get details about Your County probate court. 

(You are currently looking at information for Georgia. Click here for information about Probate Court for Your County.)

If the Deceased Owned Property In More Than One State

If the deceased person owned property in more than one state, "ancillary probate" proceedings may be required in those other states, depending on how the property was owned. These extra hurdles can be avoided by some simple planning ahead.


3. Simplified Georgia Probate Procedures May Be Available to Transfer Property Quickly

For property that did not have a beneficiary designation or was not in a living trust, there may be "simplified probate" procedures or "small estate affidavit" procedures in Georgia for transferring certain kinds of property at death, which can avoid the cost and time of a full-blown court-supervised probate proceeding.

SHORTCUTS:

Small Estate Procedures in Georgia: Many states allow simplified procedures for small estates and certain kinds of property which can be transferred by a simple affidavit procedure if the value of the estate falls under a certain limit.

Property Transfer Affidavits: Most states have quick procedures for transferring property valued less than a certain amount, if all the heirs agree.

In Georgia, there's no Affidavit procedure available for small estates. There is a summary probate procedure available for estates in which there is no Will, the estate owes no debts, and all of the heirs have agreed on how to divide up the property.

Ga. Code Ann. 53-2-40 and following.

 


Need Professional Help? Talk to a Probate Attorney

Want help handling your duties as an executor of a Georgia estate? Connect with a Georgia probate lawyer from the Nolo/Martindale network.

 

4. Even if there's no will, someone needs to start the probate process when someone dies

Regardless of the size of the estate, someone needs to start the probate process within a certain period after someone dies. If you were named the executor in the will, you are that person.

If there is no will, or no executor was named in the will, the court will appoint someone to be responsible for filing the necessary documents to complete the process of paying debts and taxes and funeral expenses from the estate and distributing property to beneficiaries.

If you are a beneficiary of a small estate, you may be able to claim your inheritance with a simple affidavit. (If there is no will,  beneficiaries are determined by the "intestate succession" laws in the state where the person is a resident.) 


Wills & Intestacy

  • Wills: What are they? Do I need one? What if someone dies without one?
    • Naming an executor.
    • Appointing guardians and property managers for minor children
    • Specifying how debts should be paid
  • No Will? Who Inherits if a Spouse or Parent Dies Without a Will in Georgia

5. Death & Taxes: Most estates do not need to file an estate tax return, but there are other kinds of year-end taxes to be paid when someone dies

Unless an estate is worth more than $13,610,000, it will not need to file a Federal estate tax return.

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6. Creditors and taxes must be paid before you can inherit assets

  • The estate always must pay taxes before any other creditors can get paid. 
  • Debts that are secured by property, like mortages, are called secured debts, because if someone doesn't pay the loan, the lender can take the property. If you inherit a house, you also inherit the mortgage.
  • Unsecured debts, like credit cards, don't work that way -- as a beneficiary you are not responsible for that debt,
  • But the estate needs to pay all known creditors before distributing property to beneficiaries and heirs. Otherwise, a creditor can come calling to get paid back from estate assets, even after they've been distributed.
  • Most states have some sort of protection from creditors in the form of a “family allowance” and/or a homestead exemption

 


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Jurisdictional relevance: ST

There are versions of this article for each State.