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What exactly is probate?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2021 | Probate Litigation |

Probate is a legal process during which a deceased person’s assets are divided among heirs and beneficiaries. During this process, their debts are also handled.

Usually, the first step of probate is to verify the decedent’s last will and testament. If they died without a will, then probate will still occur but likely take longer and be more complex.

What happens when someone dies and doesn’t have a will?

When a person dies but doesn’t have a will, then they have died “intestate.” This means that they have no will to provide guidance on the distribution of the estate. As a result, the estate is subject to state law.

In probate court, the judge will determine how to divide the decedent’s assets and debts. This usually begins with paying off debts. Once those are covered, then remaining assets are divided among the heirs and beneficiaries according to state law.

Why is it important to have a will?

If you have a will, then your will has the chance to clarify your wishes. Without it, the court needs to make decisions on your behalf. Georgia probate law is not necessarily going to distribute the assets in the way that you’d like.

How are assets divided when there is no will?

If an estate does go to probate because no will is present, then usually the assets are divided starting by granting a spouse year’s support. This is an option that grants the spouse and their minor children property from the estate before debts are paid off. This is helpful in situations where the family’s breadwinner is now deceased.

For other cases, it’s normal to see the estate cover debts first. Then, if the individual had a spouse, they typically receive a portion of the estate. Their children or grandchildren may also receive some of the estate. If the decedent had no children or spouse, then their parents may obtain assets from the estate. If no parents are living, then siblings may take the estate.

This can be complex, but there are straightforward guidelines. An attorney can help families dealing with probate find the best path forward to shorten the process, save time and money and move on.