Atlanta’s Trusted Probate Lawyers
Put the legal expertise of Arkin Law’s probate lawyers to work for you!
Protecting the assets and families of Atlanta.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is often difficult enough. When it comes to handling their affairs after they are gone, it can make it even more difficult. If you are the next of kin or listed as the executor of the estate, you may find yourself handling all the financial and legal aspects of their passing, rather than processing your own grief.
Probate is the legal process of authenticating a last will and testament if one exists. It includes locating and determining the value of the decedent’s assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and then distributing the remainder of the estate to their beneficiaries.
The Probate Process
Navigating the probate process in Georgia can be intimidating, especially if it is your loved one who is recently deceased. You can trust the legal team at Arkin Law to guide you through the process with compassion.
Authenticating the last will and testament for validity.
Once a person has died, it must be proven that it is current and valid, that it was not signed under duress. If legal changes have occurred since a will was established — married, divorced, had children, or the executor or beneficiaries have died, it can render a will invalid. The person who is in possession of the will at the time of death is responsible for filing the will with the probate court as soon as possible. An application or petition must be filed, and this is the first in a long list of steps that your probate attorney can assist you with. In determining the validity of the will, there may be a court hearing to allow all beneficiaries and heirs to attend and be heard. A beneficiary is a person that is declared an inheritance by while an heir is someone who would inherit something by default.
Appointing an executor or personal representative.
The executor or personal representative will act on behalf of the deceased to execute the last wishes and settle accounts after death. Typically, an executor will be appointed in a will, but if one is not, the courts will declare the next of kin such as a surviving spouse, parent, or sibling.
Locating and determining the values of assets.
This is done by the executor of the estate and may require quite a bit of detective work. Sometimes there are assets that are not obvious and some that are even hidden. Your probate lawyer can help you with this process.
Next, the executor will have to identify and notify creditors, and then settle any debts. Some debts will die with the person, while others will be settled out of the estate or passed on to surviving family members. Debtors have a limited amount of time to recoup funds before the estate can be settled.
Distributing the assets.
The final step is the distribution of the estate as declared by the will. This includes the transfer of deeds and contracting ownership of assets. If the beneficiaries are minors, a trust will have to be established. Your experienced probate lawyer can help with the entire probate process from negotiating probate cases and creating trusts.
Avoid putting your family through the probate process with estate planning.
Avoiding probate can help make the grieving process easier on your family in the event of your death. Not only is the probate process difficult for surviving loved ones, but some other reasons you should avoid it include the fact that it is a costly and lengthy process that prevents the division of your assets and closure for your family. Additionally, the probate process is public, meaning that everyone has access to the records and can hunt their way through your personal business and division of your most personal assets. Protect your privacy and the privacy of your surviving loved ones when you avoid probate. Here are some ways that you can avoid probate.
- Have a small estate. Most states set an exemption level for probate, offering an expedited probate process for what is considered a small estate. For most people, managing assets after death is not what drives their investments.
- Gift your assets while you’re alive. Instead of leaving your assets to family and friends after your death, gift them beforehand. This can also help reduce the amount of taxes paid, and, of course, the time it takes for them to receive the asset. However, this does not work if your death is unplanned or sudden.
- Make accounts payable on death. Bank and other accounts that are payable on death will immediately go directly to your designated beneficiary without going through probate. If you want to simplify things, you can ensure that all of your accounts are payable upon your death.
- Own joint property. All jointly owned property will automatically be left to the surviving owner, without probate. Commonly jointly owned property includes homes, vehicles, and bank accounts.
- Estate Planning. The best way to help avoid your estate going through probate is to estate plan. This can include setting up trusts for your beneficiaries and establishing wills and trusts. In the event of your death, your wishes will already be known and your family can avoid probate.
Trust the legal team at Arkin Law for all of your estate planning and probate needs!
At Arkin Law, we have decades of experience with estate planning in Atlanta. Our probate attorney can help you navigate the complex Georgia legal system to help make the process as smooth as possible for you and your loved ones. As always, we offer complimentary consultations with our probate lawyers. Contact us to schedule yours today!