Georgia probate attorneys deal with subjects that we don’t really like to think about but death and taxes are inevitable. The good news a bill passed by the Georgia Legislature eliminated the estate tax. And you only need to worry about a federal estate tax if you are going to inherit more than $5 million.

But when a loved one dies you have other legal issues besides taxes. Probate attorneys help clients sort through the legal issues. Here are just a few of the issues Georgia probate lawyers handle:

  • A Georgia probate attorney helps determine the assets of the deceased. Even if a person doesn’t own a home or a vehicle, he or she likely had something of value in their possession. While some assets are not relevant to probate, some are. A probate attorney helps locate and secure the assets.
  • When property is involved, a probate attorney handles the appraisals. This is important whether or not the person died with a will or without a will. A current appraisal is needed to determine the value for probate. If the property is to be sold, the probate attorney may oversee the sale.
  • Before a loved one dies, many people probably don’t know where the probate court is in their county, much less how it works. This could lead to miss deadlines for filings and once the case is filed, missed court hearings. The probate attorney keeps you up to date on when and where you need to be.
  • No matter what kind of court case you have, there is always a lot of paperwork. Many people google an online legal site and fill out paperwork there and think they are done. Often these sites do not take into account the different requirements of each state or the preferences of local courts. A probate attorney will make sure the paperwork is filled out property for your court.

Just because someone passes away, that doesn’t mean their financial obligations do. This is where a Georgia probate attorney is very helpful. They can help you:

  • Communicate with the life insurance companies so that you can pay for final expenses such as the funeral or hospital bills.
  • Handle any retirement accounts. Theses could be rolled over or transferred to a survivor.
  • Advise on how to pay the final bills of the deceased and help with the checking account.
  • While there are no estate taxes in Georgia, any income that the deceased person made could be subject to income taxes.
  • Setup, and eventually close, an estate account, and the associated Federal Tax ID Number, for the deceased person’s estate.

A probate attorney works with what the courts call the executor of the estate, also known as the personal representative.  If the deceased person had a will, the executor may have been determined in the will.

Without a will, determining the personal representative can be controversial. For example, if a parent dies suddenly without a will, the surviving children may argue over who will handle the estate. When a person has no children or surviving spouse and dies without a will, it may be difficult to find a relative or friend to handle the estate. In some extreme cases, the court may appoint the County Administrator to handle the estate if the family members cannot come to an agreement, this is a step that will cost the family.

Many of the above issues happen when a person dies in what is described as intestate—without a will. Working with a Georgia probate attorney to plan your estate will make it easier for you loved ones when you die. Again, you can find many websites and even books in the library that contain sample wills. Before you complete a will online on your own, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I familiar with my local probate court and its rules? Remember, these issues are handled through the Georgia probate court. While you are only handling one case, a probate attorney has likely handled hundreds of cases and is very familiar with the court and its staff.
  2. Have I included all my assets? Some assets are a given—a house, car, or vacation home. But some family members may squabble over collectibles or a treasured heirloom. While some relatives may not be happy with the terms of your will, in most cases your wishes will be honored and squabbling will be reduced.
  3. Have I secured the will in a place where it can be found when I die? A 90s movie “Daddy’s Dying, Who’s Got the Will?” is a comedy but it raises a serious question. If you complete a will, make sure it is in a place and that surviving family members know where it is.

If you don’t have a will, what are you waiting for? Even if you don’t have a multi-million dollar estate, you likely have assets and sadly, financial obligations that will need to be handled after your death. Working with a probate attorney will assure you and your loved ones that your matters are being handled properly.