Probate FAQs

Have you recently lost a loved one? Losing a loved one is emotionally heart wrenching and difficult. Being responsible for managing your loved one’s estate and final affairs can make an already terrible situation seem unbearable. With no upfront fees, the experienced probate attorneys at the Atlanta Probate Team can ease your burden and work quickly to protect your inheritance while you take care of you and your family.

13 Steps to Take When You Lose a Loved One

Step 1: Contact Immediate Family

Start making phone calls as soon as you can to let your closest family members know of your loss. Not only will these people want to know, but they can also be a wonderful source of support for you in your time of need. Further, your closest family members can also help you make important decisions that will need to be made in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Step 2: Make Funeral Arrangements

If your loved one did not express his or her wishes for which funeral home to use and other final preparations, then you will need to make those decisions yourself. It can be helpful to discuss your options with close friends and family, but either way, we’d encourage you to follow your heart in regard to what you think the deceased would have wanted. If your loved one was a veteran, this is also the time to look into any special arrangements that may be available to honor his or her service. Other final arrangements you will need to take care of include:

  • Paying for the funeral and burial
  • Finding pallbearers for the casket
  • Arranging a post-funeral reception
  • Purchasing a headstone
  • Contacting friends and family about the funeral arrangements
  • Keeping track of people who reach out to the family with cards and flowers
  • Writing an obituary

Step 3: Contact Extended Family and Friends

Once your closest family members have been informed, get the word out to other people who your loved one knew. Enlist the help of your immediate family to help make phone calls and send emails.

Step 4: Take Care of the Deceased’s Property

If your loved one lived alone, make sure the house is securely locked so no one can get in. Also, make sure the car is locked and parked someplace where you can keep an eye on it. Finally, you can contact the local police to let them know that the house is vacant, and if the home is a rental, you should contact the landlord or property manager, too.

Step 5: Contact the Post Office

If you fail to contact the post office, your loved one’s mail will start to accumulate quickly which will be a sure sign that the house is empty. Further, there is likely mail that needs to be attended to as well. Inform the post office that your loved one has passed on and have the mail forwarded to you or someone else who is willing to accept it. As items like credit card bills and subscriptions come in, begin contacting the proper people to have them cancelled. Make a list of all the important bills that come in through the mail and share that information with the executor.

Step 6: In the weeks following your loved one’s death, you will need several copies of the death certificate. So, get at least 10 of them as soon as you can. You can either contact the funeral director to help you get them or you can order them from the vital statistics office of the state where the death occurred. Get Duplicate Death Certificates

Step 7: If your loved one was receiving social security benefits, you need to contact the local social security administration office as soon as possible. Do not let this responsibility lapse. If overpayments are made, the process of paying that amount back is complicated and a headache that you do not want to have to deal with. Notify the Social Security Administration

Step 8: As you go through your loved one’s personal effects, make note of Medicare and other insurance policies. Make sure you cancel everything of that nature to which your loved one was making payments. Cancel Medicare or other Insurance Policie

Step 9: If your loved one was working, contact his or her employer to talk about a pension plan, credit union accounts, union death benefits, and any other accounts that the deceased may have had through work. Check On Employment Benefits

Step 10: Notify Financial Institutions

Let all of your loved one’s financial institutions know of your loved one’s death. Doing so is especially important for places where interest can accrue or late payments can be assessed for lack of payment. The types of institutions that should be informed include:

  • Banks
  • Credit unions
  • Mortgage holders
  • Credit card companies
  • Financial advisors
  • Credit reporting agencies

Step 11: Contact a Tax Preparer

A tax return may need to be filed on your loved one’s behalf. To make it a bit easier, gather up the bank statements for all individual and joint accounts for the month of your loved one’s death.

Step 12: Notify the Election Board

Although this task is not the most important on the list, it does still need to get done. Many people forget this step, and it has resulted in there being over two million deceased people who are still registered to vote.

Step 13: Handle Miscellaneous Cancellations

Additional cancellations that you will need to make on your loved one’s behalf include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Email and website accounts
  • Memberships in organizations

Step 14: Contact an experienced probate attorney at the Atlanta Probate Team

Taking care of all of these responsibilities upon the death of a loved one is crucial to making sure that no problems arise down the line. Consider it a show of love and respect for the deceased that you are willing to take on these tasks to make the process easier. If you need help getting any of these tasks completed, or if you are ready to start the process of filing for probate in the metro Atlanta area to administer your loved one’s estate, we invite you to contact our probate and estate attorneys at 404-658-9900 to schedule a consultation.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s assets and paying liabilities based on their wishes in the will. Probate is required for nearly every estate. During probate, the judge and lawyers will help guide the personal representative or executor of the estate. The personal representative will pay all of the debts and liabilities the decedent had and then distribute any remaining assets. For their services, the personal representative is paid a fee from the estate.

Who is Involved in Probate?

There are many different people involved in the probate process. These include:

  • You or someone else serving as the personal representative
  • The Clerk of Court
  • A Judge
  • Your probate attorney
  • The IRS

That last one may cause some anxiety, but part of probating an estate is paying final income taxes. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. By using the Atlanta Probate Team to guide you through the probate process, you can rest assured your loved one’s estate will follow the guidelines set forth.

When is Probate Necessary?

Not all items go through probate, so it is important to know what does have to go through probate and what does not. Anything the deceased owned — in his or her name alone — may have to go through probate. We can help you determine what is part of the probate estate and what won’t go through probate. Some of assets that don’t go through probate include:

  • Joint property: This includes bank accounts, vehicles or properties that are owned by more than just the deceased. The survivor automatically owns the property upon the joint account holder’s death.
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts: A payable-on-death bank account automatically goes to the beneficiary.
  • Life insurance proceeds: If the life insurance policy specifies a beneficiary, the policy pays that person and doesn’t go through probate.
  • If the retirement account specifies a beneficiary, the funds go to that person without the need for probate.
  • Retirement accounts: If the retirement account specifies a beneficiary, the funds go to that person without the need for probate.
  • Living trust assets:Assets may have a name of a trustee for a living trust specified, and in this case, these assets do not have to go through probate court.

What May Be Subjected to Probate?

Anything a person owned when he or she passed away, may be subject to the probate. Probate is a court-supervised process that entails proving the validity of a will and distributing assets within the decedent’s estate. Assets may be things like property, bank accounts, life insurance policy, art collections, vehicles, jewelry, and more. If you need help during the probate process after your loved one passed away, we recommend meeting with an attorney at the Atlanta Probate Team as soon as possible.

There are often four types of assets that may be subject to probate, including the following:

#1 Individual Assets

As a member of our legal team may inform you, individual assets entail all the property that are listed with the decedent’s name without any co-owners. Examples of individual assets can include investment accounts, bank accounts, bonds, stocks, cars, airplanes, boats, real estate, artwork, memorabilia, and business interests.

#2 Tenants-In-Common Property

Tenants-in-common assets can include property that is titled in the decedent’s name along with one or more individuals. Every owner has a percentage of interest for the property (such as 50/50, 25/75, 80/20, etc). Tenant-in-common titles are often named this way for property that is divided among unmarried owners.

#3 Beneficiary Assets (with Predeceased or No Beneficiary Descriptions)

Assets with payable-on-death or beneficiary designations may have to go through probate, if the beneficiary passed prior to the decedent. The assets may include things like medical savings accounts, health savings, life insurance, retirement accounts, 401K, IRAs and annuities. If the named beneficiaries predeceased the decedent, the asset usually diverts back to the estate and becomes part of probate. The same thing may happen if the decedent listed the estate as the beneficiary, or did not name any beneficiaries at all.

#4 Assets Outside of the Trust

A person may establish a living trust and move assets into it for protection. However, this does not absolutely mean that none of his or her property will go through probate after death. Living trusts can help avoid probate of the property included, but so much time may go by that the person acquired more assets and failed to pass these into the trust as well before passing away. A Probate Lawyer at the Atlanta Probate Team may emphasize the importance of updating your trust every few years or as life changes happen, so no assets end up accidentally being left out.

If an estate is small, you may be able to go through a simplified probate process in Georgia. This applies for estate totals equal to or less than $25,000 without adding real estate into the total.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Each estate is unique. While there are guidelines that state probate should not take more than one year, that is not always the case. Some estates are extremely complex and require many years to probate and close. Other estates take a few months. There are certain things that must happen during probate and there are waiting periods. For instance, when you file a notice to creditors to alert any creditors that they need to file a claim against the estate to be paid, you have to wait a certain number of days for those creditors to file claims. This means that even in simple estates, you are looking at a minimum of about six months.

At the Atlanta Probate Center, we understand just how difficult it can be to settle your loved one’s final affairs. If your family member’s estate has to go through a probate process, things might get a little overwhelming and confusing. That’s why we encourage you to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. We work hard for our clients and try to make the probate process as stress-free as possible for them.

Here are some of the benefits of hiring a probate lawyer:

  • Save Time:Taking a family member’s estate through the probate process can be a time-consuming matter. With so many other things on your plate, you shouldn’t have to worry about handling the entire probate process on your own. We have the experience to finish the probate process as quickly as possible. With your lawyer doing all the legwork, you can reduce a lot of stress and have more time to take care of your family.
  • Complete Paperwork: The probate process involves a lot of paperwork. Some of this paperwork can be confusing and difficult to understand for the average person. Even a small error can slow down the entire process. We can remain by your side and help out with the paperwork to ensure you understand everything you are filling out.
  • Cost Savings: While hiring a probate attorney does cost money, it could potentially save you more money in the long run. An experienced probate lawyer can prepare and process documents efficiently and reduce time in court, which may help you save money. A probate lawyer could also provide counsel that helps to minimize estate taxes.
  • Alleviate Tension: Estate administration can sometimes create family tension. For example, if one family member does not receive the inheritance he or she deserves, that person might become angry and take it out on other family members. We can help alleviate some of the tension between family members and help them understand the process better.
  • Legal Knowledge: When you are dealing with something as complex as estate administration, it helps to have an experienced lawyer by your side. We have likely handled similar cases to yours in the past and should be prepared to handle any unique challenges that may come your way. Our attorneys administer estates constantly and we are prepared to lead our clients in the right direction.
  • Support: Handling an estate administration after the death of a family member can be quite daunting. Our legal team can provide endless support through the entire process and be there to offer guidance. If you ever have a question or concern about something, you can just call your lawyer and talk to him or her about whatever is troubling you.

What Exactly Does a Probate Lawyer Help With?

A probate lawyer may help the Personal Representative of the estate go through the probate process.

What Exactly Does a Probate Lawyer Help With?

Your lawyer may also inform you that probate can vary from case to case depending on the existence of a valid will. We can advise you of the laws in your state and help you determine what to expect in the probate process.

A member of our legal team may address several items, including:

  • Locating probate and nonprobate assets
  • Collecting life insurance money
  • Obtaining appraisals of the deceased’s property
  • Preparing and filing the documents the probate court needs
  • Rolling over and making elections for retirement plans
  • Taking care of the estate checking account
  • Advising on any payments of outstanding debts and final bills
  • Determining any inheritance or estate taxes
  • Dealing with any income tax issues
  • Helping with selling estate property
  • Requesting court permission as necessary
  • Retitling the real estate
  • Settling disputes between beneficiaries and personal representatives
  • Distributing remaining assets after the final estate has been settled

Estate Disputes and Litigation

Estate litigation involves disputes over estates, trusts and wills. Fights over estates are more common than people realize. If you find yourself in a tug of war after the death of a family member, it is probably time to consult with our office about your rights and the best way to protect your interests.

Once Probate Has Concluded

Once probate is complete, beneficiaries are awarded their portion of the estate as written in the decedent’s will. If at any point during the probate process a beneficiary or family member feels their loved one’s legacy is not being handled correctly, he or she may be able to take action to set things straight.

What should I do if I lose a loved one?

This time may also accompany a heavy period of grief. Our attorneys understand that you may need some legal insight and compassionate support. Do not hesitate to reach out to us to book your free consultation.

Let us help you:

  • Probate the will if there is one
  • Request that the Court put you in charge if there is not a will
  • Collect the money owed to your loved one
  • Locate the assets of your loved one
  • Determine the value of the assets in the estate
  • Deal with Creditors
  • Prepare the final tax return
  • Distribute the assets in accordance with your loved one’s wishes

Please contact our experienced attorneys who can help you during this difficult time. Attorneys are available on-call and after hours. For additional information, please call 404-658-9900 or visit us online at