Requirement of Georgia Law: File the Will in the Probate Court having Jurisdiction
Georgia law requires a person in possession of a will of a deceased person to file that will "with reasonable promptness" in the probate court of the county having jurisdiction. Typically, the county in which the decedent was domiciled (i.e. where the decedent maintained his/her permanent residence) is the county which has jurisdiction over the probate of the decedent's estate.
Which Will do I file?
Because one of the roles of the Probate court is to determine the validity of the will, if a decedent has multiple wills, you should file all wills with the probate court. In many cases, the most recent Will will include a statement that all previous wills are revoked. However, if the court were to find that the will including such a statement were not valid, the previous Will would not have been revoked and would be the decedent's last will and testament.
The Georgia statute merely states "a will." The statute does not impose the requirement merely upon the most recent will made by the testator, therefore all wills should be filed with the appropriate court.
Retain a copy; Use a trackable medium; No Fee to file not for probate.
Unless filing the will with the court in-person, I recommend making a copy of all the wills being filed. In the event the originals are lost in the mail, you'll have a copy which you can submit to the court. To verify that the court receives the filing, I further recommend using a trackable medium such as certified U.S. Mail or a commercial carrier such as UPS or Federal Express. In my experience, Georgia probate courts do not charge a fee for filing the will in satisfaction of the legal requirement.
(note: Probate courts do charge a filing fee for probating a will or petitioning for administration of an estate)
Am I required to file even if the decedent had no probate estate?
Georgia law places no limitations on who must file a will. If the maker and signer of the will (i.e. the testator) is deceased and you have an original will signed by the testator, you must file that Will regardless of the size of the decedent's estate. In some circumstances, such as when a year's support petition is being filed or when the decedent had no assets, the heirs/beneficiaires may elect not to probate the will. Even in such circumstances, however, the will must be filed with the probate court.
Additional resources provided by the author
Title 53 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated
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