OVERVIEW OF THE APPOINTMENT OF A REPRESENTATIVE
The Georgia probating and estate administration process begins with a petition being filed with the probate court in the county where the decedent was domiciled at the time of his or her death. The probate court petition seeks to have the probate court issue “Letters of Administration” or “Letters Testamentary” that appoint an executor or administrator to begin the formal estate administration process. Once appointed, the executor or administrator of an estate has fiduciary duties which are imposed under Georgia law. The fiduciary duties imposed by Georgia law upon and executor or administrator are among the highest and most stringent imposed by Georgia law. These duties “relate back” to the executor’s or administrator’s acts prior to appointment by the probate court. Until commencement of the “formal” estate administration process has been ordered by the court, the executor or administrator must “protect and preserve” the assets of the estate and treat all interested “parties” to the estate with due regard to their respective rights.
WHAT GOES BEHIND ADMINISTERING AN ESTATE?
The estate administration process is very time consuming and is usually very difficult. This is especially true for non-lawyers attempting to try and administer an estate without the guidance of an experienced Georgia probate attorney. Furthermore, the Georgia estate administration and probate process is usually an emotional, confusing and complicated undertaking. This is especially true since the parties to the estate administration process are often family members, relatives, and friends.
Generally, executors/administrators have many responsibilities to settle the estate which include the following:
- Beginning the probate process by filing for Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary.
- Obtaining death certificates and other certified legal documents.
- Filing the original will and other legal papers with the probate court.
- Looking for heirs, beneficiaries and other “interested persons” and “parties” who may have an interest in the estate.
- Filing tax returns for the person who died. This includes federal, state, and local income taxes in addition to federal and state estate taxes as necessary.
- Publishing Notice to Debtors and Creditors.
- Giving notice that an executor or administrator has been named or appointed.
- Opening estate checking and savings accounts.
- Locating documents that affect the value of the estate such as birth certificates, real estate and property deeds, federal and state income tax returns, gift tax returns, employee benefit information, marriage certificate, military discharge papers, prenuptial agreements or vehicle titles.
- A listing of all of the estate’s assets, sometimes called an “inventory”.
- Managing the assets of the estate. This includes negotiating leases, making investments, and paying debts and final bills.
- Keeping a written record of all income, expenses, and payments made. This is referred to as an “accounting”.
- Determining the value of all banking, savings, mutual fund, and brokerage accounts as of the date of death.
- Locating qualified appraisers to document the current fair market value of business interests, real estate, and personal property such as jewelry, cars and clothing.
- Making sure that buildings (houses, rental property, office buildings) owned by the decedent are insured. The executor may also need to manage these buildings or collect rents.
- Filing for survivor benefits, such as life insurance, pension benefits, and government benefits such as veteran’s benefits.
- Selling assets if money is needed to pay bills. Usually, the probate court must approve any sale of real estate.
- Investing and protecting estate assets.
WHY CONSULT WITH US
We will work with you to find solutions that fit your situation and respect you and your family members’ legal rights. After being involved in probate matters for decades, we know how complex or even hopeless some problems can seem. We can take the lead in the estate administration of your loved one’s estate for you. Contact us at any of our 4 office locations to put our knowledge and experience to work for you.