My brother passed away recently. He had no will, no wife or children and no assets except checking and savings which is just over the $10,000. There are two sisters and we would like to know how to file an intestate estate in GA so that we are able to access the funds in his checking and savings accounts. Are there fees involved in filing for an intestate estate? What is the process?
I'm sorry to hear about your brother. There can be a LOT involved. Much depends upon whether he owed any debt when he died, whether a final tax return must be filed, which of his affairs must be wound up, etc. It is almost always worth a consultation with an attorney to discuss these and many other issues.
In conjunction with all this. you will probably want to consider an affidavit for financial institutions. I'm putting a link to a form provided by the Henry County Probate Court below.
Proceed with caution when using this (or any) form without advice of counsel.
Best of luck.
No attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by this communication. This answer is to be considered as a general discussion of legal principals and is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. If the asker seeks specific legal advice, he should retain an attorney, who will naturally take the time to consider all aspects of the case and perform any necessary legal research.
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your brother. If you want to open your brother's probate estate, then you need to file a Petition for Letters of Administration in the county where your brother had his principal residence. If neither of his parents survived him and he had no surviving spouse, and no surviving child, grandchild, or other descendant, then his siblings would be his heirs. If the two sisters are the only siblings and there are no deceased siblings with living descendants, then the heirs would be only the two sisters.
In filing a petition for letters of administration, you have to nominate someone to serve as the administrator. If all of the heirs agree, they can appoint an administrator (one of the siblings, both of them, or someone else), and they can ask to have the administrator relieved of any responsibility to file any inventory or reports with the probate court and relieved of the need to post a bond. Making that request can make the estate administration process a lot simpler and cheaper, but if the heirs don't all agree or the petition doesn't make the request correctly, it won't be granted. There are filling fees to file the Petition, yes, as well as certified copy charges to obtain the Letters of Administration once they are issued and, if the request for waiver of bond, inventory, and reports is made, there is a publication fee. These fees can be $400 to $500 total, depending on things like which court is used and how many copies of the Letters are purchased.
After an administrator is appointed, the administrator has to publish a Notice to Debtors and Creditors (Cherokee Probate Court requests publication of this notice itself; most other courts in metro Atlanta require the administrator to request that herself but can provide information about how to do it). That notice runs for four weeks and should ideally be started as soon as possible after the Letters Testamentary have been issued. The administrator's job in the meantime is to work on determining all of the assets and debts that exist and collecting and protecting the assets. There is a 3 month period after the Notice finishes running during which other creditors may come forward; ideally the administrator should avoid making large payments from the estate during this period. The debts and administration expenses all get paid in a certain order (if there is no surviving spouse or minor child, then the first highest priority expense is usually funeral expenses, followed by other items). The administrator must be very careful to determine all debts that are owed and not to make payments out of the order of priority. If the debts and expenses are more than the available assets, the administrator must very carefully pay the estate assets out in the appropriate order, and the heirs will receive nothing. The administrator also has to ensure that all needed income tax or other tax returns for the deceased person have been filed and any taxes owed paid, and should file at least one income tax return for the estate (even if it has no income, to let the IRS know that it has been dealt with correctly).
If all debts and expenses are paid in full, the heirs will divide the remaining assets. In the case where there are two heirs, both living siblings, they would divide the remaining assets equally.
Before taking on your brother's estate, you and your sister should consider what assets and debts may exist. If he didn't own any real estate, and if the estate is likely to be insolvent (more debts than assets), you may be better off just walking away from the estate assets that exist. Otherwise, you'll do a lot of work and incur a lot of potential responsibility and maybe receive no return. Consult a probate attorney if you need help making that analysis.
This answer is not intended to provide you with specific legal advice regarding your situation, or to create any attorney-client relationship. The intent is only to provide general information. You should be aware that you cannot rely on this answer to provide you with any protection against tax penalties. You should always consult your own attorney in order to obtain legal advice.
Someone need to file a petition to probate the estate and beck administrator of the estate. Fees are nvlved in the probate process.
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