Probate Lawyer in Northeast Georgia

A Georgia probate attorney with experience draws on knowledge of Georgia probate and estate law. They also understand that careful negotiation, years of mediation, and psychology skills are important tools to hone. The probate process grows even more complicated when a loved one dies “intestate” (without a will).

Attorney Dylan Wilbanks and his team have helped many clients work through their probate needs. We understand that working on dividing an estate after a loved one’s death can be a burden. We’re here to help you, whether that’s administrating an estate without a will, fighting challenges of the will’s authenticity, or even standing up to creditors with no true claim.

You should call an experienced probate lawyer to help you sort through your estate. The Wilbanks Law Firm is ready to hear your story and help you and your family.

Call (706) 510-0000 or use our online form to schedule your consultation today.

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Understanding Georgia Probate Law

The probate process begins after someone passes away. It regulates the distribution of the decedent’s possessions to their inheritors and the repayment of any debts or taxes their estate owes.

Probate can be an extensive and confusing, sometimes lasting months. Some cases can take even longer, depending on the circumstances. To close an estate, all debts must be paid, all assets transferred, and the proper documentation must be given to the court.

Why Hire a Probate Lawyer?

A probate lawyer’s job and involvement will vary from case to case, but in essence, they are there to keep probate moving smoothly and fairly. Those who leave a last will and testament may not have used clear language, opening the door for others to contest the will.

There could be more claims against the will, some involving fraud, improper influence, or poor execution. There could be conflicting versions of the will. You don’t need to go through this complicated process alone.

Attorney Dylan Wilbanks is prepared to help you. He can investigate claims, help evaluate the estate’s assets and value, and execute wills. Dylan’s extensive knowledge of Georgia’s real estate and probate laws allows him to assist you and your family. He knows that probate is a process, but it doesn’t need to be an ordeal.

Are You Going Through Probate in Northeast Georgia?

Once a loved one has passed away, you can begin the probate process. First, someone will need to file the decedent’s will with the probate court of their county. For instance, you would file a Commerce resident’s will at the Jackson County Probate Court.

Appointing a Personal Representative

Known as an executor, estate administrator, or personal representative, this is the person designated to care for someone’s estate after they pass. A personal representative is typically named in a will, but if there isn’t a will, the probate court will appoint an estate administrator.

What are the Personal Representative’s Responsibilities?

Once a representative has been appointed to oversee an estate, they must act in the estate’s best interests. They’ll be responsible for:

  • Protecting any assets that come through the estate.
  • Paying the debts of the estate, including its taxes.
  • Creating reports for the probate court.

The personal representative will answer to the court, the heirs of the estate, and any creditors.

Processing the Estate’s Assets

Once appointed, the representative will collect the estate’s assets so they can inventory these assets and assess their values. The representative will be responsible for their safekeeping or sale, if necessary. The court may require the representative to submit a report about the estate’s assets and their estimated value.

Valid assets include:

  • Bank accounts solely owned by the decedent.
  • Life insurance policies without a beneficiary designated.
  • Vehicles, like cars, recreational vehicles, or motorcycles.
  • Retirement funds without a designated beneficiary (IRAs, 401(k), or mutual funds).
  • Real estate solely owned by the decedent.

Dealing with the Estate’s Debts

While the personal representative is processing the estate, they must also begin assessing the estate’s debts and outstanding tax obligations. The representative will have 60 days to publish a notice about the probate proceedings in a local newspaper. This informs creditors that they have three months to present a formal claim against the estate.

The representative must also file the decedent’s final state and federal income tax returns. These are due by next April 15 after the decedent’s passing. If someone passed away in 2024, for instance, their personal representative would need to pay taxes by April 15, 2025. Some estates are large enough that they must pay an estate tax, but they account for less than one percent under the current tax structure.

Distributing Assets & Closing the Estate

After the taxes and debts have been satisfied, the representative can begin distributing the remaining assets to inheritors. They will follow the decedent’s instructions left in their will. If there was no will, the representative will follow the state’s laws on inheritance. Under Georgia’s laws, the decedent’s closest relatives will inherit their assets.

The representative will create a record of who receives what property, and how they satisfied any debts or taxes paid. Once all assets are distributed, the representative can file a petition for discharge, formally requesting to be released from their duties. If their request is granted, the estate will be closed.

"Professional, Diligent, and a Joy to Work With"

Wilbanks Law Firm was engaged for the purposes of drawing up a commercial lease and they did a superb job! I worked with Penny on the deal and she was an absolute professional, diligent and a joy to work with! I highly recommend this law firm for your legal needs!

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FAQs about Georgia Probate

What is a Year’s Support?

A year’s support is a permanent award of property from a decedent’s estate to their surviving family members. That could be a spouse, their minor children, or both. A spouse can apply for a year’s support if they haven’t remarried. Discuss a year’s support with our Georgia probate lawyers.

How Can I Avoid Probate Proceedings?

Not every will needs to go through the probate process. You could use proactive planning by creating a living trust, naming specific beneficiaries in your will, or owning property with someone else. Some wills can specify to skip probate proceedings. Talk to us for further explanation.

What if I Think a Will is Invalid?

Whether you think a will has been altered after the decedent’s death or if someone tried to influence their way into receiving property, you can challenge a will. Most wills pass through probate without issue, but there have been times when a claimant believes there has been wrongdoing. Talk to us about filing a caveat to challenge a will.

What Assets Will a Personal Representative Handle?

There is a variety of assets that a personal representative will be responsible for. That means vehicles, real estate, bank accounts, jewelry, furnishings, artwork, or even collections can all pass through probate. Knowing these assets’ value is critical when considering how to pay back debt while being fair to inheritors of the estate. We can help you evaluate property and decide on a means of liquidation or distribution.

What Causes Probate Disputes?

As sad as losing a loved one is, that loss can quickly be overshadowed by the issue of property and asset distribution. Money can strain relationships, especially when family is involved. There could be a lack of trust, communication, or reliability that can make family members challenge a will.

What are Some Common Estate Disputes?

There could be several reasons someone chooses to create a probate dispute. Some of the most common disputes include challenging the will’s validity, issues over how assets are distributed, and disagreements with how the personal representative is executing the estate.

Why Should I Call a Probate Lawyer?

Probate disputes can’t always be avoided, but the process can be made as smooth as possible by working with a Georgia probate lawyer. They can help you preemptively by establishing an estate plan. When a probate matter comes up, they can help you resolve it through negotiations, mediation, settlements, or even by going to trial. Whether you’re an heir, beneficiary, or personal representative, a knowledgeable probate lawyer can support you through your probate needs.

Call Us Today to Discuss your Probate Questions

Whenever money or assets are involved with family, these matters can get incredibly tense and heated. A probate lawyer can help keep the process working smoothly and eliminate finger-pointing and accusations.

Attorney Dylan Wilbanks has experience litigating probate matters and will stand up for you and your family. Call (706) 510-0000 today for free consultations or use our online form to schedule a meeting.