My loved one died recently? How do I administer his estate?
You first must determine whether his estate needs to be administered. Many items are not covered by probate court. For instance, life insurance policies go to the named beneficiaries directly. Jointly held bank accounts and real estate generally go directly to the joint owners. Retirement accounts generally go to the surviving spouse directly. Automobiles can be transferred to the surviving spouse by going to the tag office in your home county.
If the decedent owned a real estate or other property like bank accounts, investment accounts, personal property that needs to be distributed, you will need to file to administer his estate.
If the estate needs to be administered, what do I need to do first?
You can go to the website www.gaprobate.org and download Form No. 3. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate before you can file the completed petition. You will need to complete the form as directed. The surviving spouse is first in order to be the administrator followed by the children. However, if all heirs agree on an individual, then that person will be appointed.
How do I determine who the heirs are.
Georgia law determines who the heirs are. The heirs are determined by priority. The first priority is the surviving spouse and any children. They stand equal in the law and will divide an estate equally among themselves with each person getting a share equal to every other person, unless there are more than two children. If there are more than two children, the surviving spouse will receive 1/3 of the estate and the children will divide the remaining 2/3 among themselves equally. If there is no surviving spouse, the children will receive the entire estate. Likewise, if there are no children, the spouse will receive the entire estate. If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, then grandchildren will receive the entire estate. The grandchildren will receive their parent's share and divide it equally among themselves. If the person died without a surviving spouse, no children or grandchildren, the decedent's parents will inherit the estate.
Why do i need to know who the heirs are
The heirs must consent to the Petition to Appoint Administrator, or they must be legally served with a copy of the petition once it is filed. This article does not address the situation when all the heirs are not in agreement. Children under the age of 18 and people who have been declared incompetent cannot consent to a petition.
Are there any things to be careful about when completing the petition
You should note specifically section 5 that asks about inventory, bonds and expanded powers. If all the heirs are in agreement, you should initial next to the first box as that provides the most flexibility for the administrator. It also provides that the administrator does not have to post a bond which saves the estate money. Remember however, that the bond is there to protect the heirs from misdeeds of the administrator. Therefore, you should not waive the bond requirements unless you have complete confidence in the administrator.
In section 4, you should explain to the court any peculiarities with the family structure such as a predeceased child or spouse. The petitioner is usually the person asking to be appointed as administrator. If that is so, the petitioner will sign the document on pages 3, 4 and 5. The heirs will sign on page 5 and will initial next to choices a and b to provide the greatest flexibility for the administrator.
After the form is complete, what do I do.
You will take the completed form to the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived at his death. You will file the petition in the probate court. It will generally take more than 30 days before you will be granted your Letters of Administration. The filing fees for the petition vary by county but generally will be around $150.00. You will go back to the probate court in a few weeks to take your oath. The court will notify you of when to appear. The court will then grant you the Letters of Administration if everything is in order.
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