- by Melanie Webre
- in More
As you prepare to go through the process of probating a loved one’s estate, it is important to set reasonable expectations. When the process does not go as smoothly as you might expect, you can easily feel frustrated by the rules, processes, and waiting periods involved. Conversely, if you are unnecessarily apprehensive about probate, you may feel too overwhelmed to think clearly about the process.
Typically, probate takes somewhere in the range of six months to a year. Assuming your loved one left an estate plan of moderate complexity and there are no significant disagreements among family members, you can get through probate without too much trouble. As a judicial process, probate inherently takes time, but the timeline usually moves at a reasonable pace when you consider all of the various steps involved.
How Long Does Probate Take? Preparation, Steps and Other Considerations
The duration of probate in any particular case will depend on a number of factors that are unique to the deceased’s estate and his or her surviving family members’ personal circumstances. In all cases, the basic steps are generally the same, but certain factors can lengthen (or shorten) various stages of the process. The basic steps involved in Georgia probate are as follows:
1. Applying to the Probate Court
Initiating probate involves applying to the probate court. The court will appoint a personal representative (or “executor”) based on the terms of the deceased’s will. If there is not a will that names a personal representative, the court will appoint a personal representative pursuant to Georgia law.
2. Collecting and Managing the Deceased’s Assets
Once appointed, the deceased’s personal representative must identify any and all assets belonging to the estate. The personal representative must also appropriately manage the estate’s assets while probate is pending, which may include obtaining insurance and investing for the estate’s benefit.
3. Satisfying Obligations to Creditors
If the deceased had any debts outstanding at the time of death (such as a mortgage, car loan, or credit card bill), there is a special process for notifying creditors and paying debts during the probate process.
4. Distributing Remaining Estate Assets
Once all enforceable debts have been paid, then the deceased’s remaining assets will be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with his or her estate plan. If the estate plan is not fully comprehensive, certain assets may need to be distributed according to the law of intestate succession.
5. Closing the Estate
Once all other necessary steps have been completed, the probate process can be finalized with the closing of the estate.
Depending upon the circumstances involved, some of the factors that can potentially lengthen probate include:
- Dealing with a large number or wide disbursement of beneficiaries
- Guardianship and other ancillary proceedings involving the deceased’s will
- Liquidating assets in order to satisfy creditor claims
- Litigation involving the personal representative’s duties
- Will contests and beneficiary disputes
Speak with a Georgia Probate Lawyer at Stearns‑Montgomery & Proctor
If you are preparing to go through probate and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. With six convenient office locations, we represent personal representatives, heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties throughout Georgia. To schedule an appointment at your convenience, please call (678) 971-3413 or send us a message online today.