Some Estates can be easily handled without an attorney. Some Estate cases are very complicated matters and legal advice should be sought before filing. Georgia law requires specific procedures and timelines be adhered to and sufficient evidence presented before your petition, or action, can be granted. While the court will strive to be as helpful and understanding as possible in your time of need, GA law prohibits the court staff and judges from giving legal advice. Please click on the link to the right of this paragraph to access the Georgia Probate Court Standard Forms ------------------------------------->
If you decide to proceed without an attorney, it will be your responsibility to properly and timely present the necessary filings. While it is the court’s desire to assist you in any way legally possible, the judges and staff are obligated to remain impartial and neutral. It is improper for a Judge to discuss a pending case with you outside of the courtroom (off record) or without all interested parties present.
There are certain actions that must be taken by a petitioner (or on behalf of the petitioner) when presenting the initial paperwork on an estate. Below is some basic information concerning the most common types of estate filings:
Petition To Probate A Will: The Petitioner may file to probate the will in Common Form or in Solemn Form. The Court requires a formal hearing on any Common Form filing. It is the petitioner’s responsibility to file interrogatories if the will is not “Self-Proving”. If the will does not relieve the personal representative of bond, a Fiduciary Bond must be provided to the court prior to the issuance of the Letters Testamentary. The petitioner is responsible for obtaining the notarized signature of all heirs and beneficiaries or must be prepared to make arrangements for personal service (Sheriff’s service) on all heirs residing within the state of GA. All non-resident heirs and beneficiaries must be served by certified restricted mail. All filing fees, service fees, and publication fees must be paid at the time of the filing. All fees are set by GA law – not the Court. The probate court staff will be happy to discuss any procedural questions that you may have and answer any questions that they are authorized by law to answer - but may not give legal advice.
Letters of Administration: The petitioner must provide notarized signatures of all heirs OR make arrangements for personal service (Sheriff’s Service) on all heirs with known addresses residing within the state of GA. All non-residents of GA must be served by certified restricted mail. The petitioner bears the cost of service (mailing and/or Sheriff service fees). A Fiduciary bond must be obtained prior to the Letters being issued if the bond is not waived by the consent of all heirs. If a waiver of bond is requested, the consent of ALL heirs is required and notice must be published in the Madison County Journal, the legal organ of Madison County, for 4 consecutive weeks (required by law). The Petitioner is responsible for all fees in advance.
In all cases, the personal representative must publish the required notice to creditors and debtors in the Madison County Journal (legal organ) within sixty days after Letters have been issued. This notice must run once per week for four consecutive weeks and is required by law.
Year’s Support: The State of Georgia is one of the few states that provide for a Year’s Support from the Estate for the benefit of the surviving spouse and/or minor children. Because of the very complex nature of this filing (legal description including metes and bounds, subsequent filing of PT-61 Form in Superior Court, tax exemption, etc.), it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney if filing this action.
Acting as the Personal Representative of an estate is a very important fiduciary duty and comes with much responsibility. If after reading this notice you remain certain that you can perform the duties required of you as personal representative of the estate without an attorney, simply present your completed petition to the Court and you will be given a court date. If you have doubts about being able to take on this task alone, please consult with an attorney.
As always, our staff will be happy to answer any procedural questions that we are authorized by law to answer.