How Do I Open an Estate In Georgia?

After a loved one dies, it is sometimes necessary to open an estate to access accounts or other property owned by the deceased individual. If so, the first step is to determine whether the deceased person had a Will. Although Georgia does not require that you hire a lawyer to represent you, we strongly advise it.

Probate vs. Administration

If the deceased individual had a Will,  the original Will along with Form 4 (Probate in Common Form) or Form 5 (Probate in Solemn Form) must be filed in Probate Court for the County where the deceased individual was domiciled at the time he or she died. Most attorneys will use Form 5 because it is conclusive on all parties who receive notice of the petition. All heir-at-law must be notified of the Petition even if they inherit nothing under the Will. In uncontested cases, if bond was waived in the Will, the Court may swear in the Personal Representative and issue Letters Testamentary after all heirs-at-law have acknowledged service. If the Will failed to waive bond and reporting requirements, or if it failed to provide for sufficient power to act without court approval, Form 32 may be used to waive bond, waive reporting requirements or grant statutory powers. Power to act for the Estate commences upon qualification. O.C.G.A. § 53-7-1.

If the deceased individual did not have a Will, then the Estate must be administered. Form 3 (Petition for Letters of Administration) must be filed in the Probate Court for the County where the deceased individual was domiciled at the time he or she died. Also, the Court must publish notice of the Petition in the legal organ for the County where the Petition was filed one per week for four consecutive weeks. In uncontested cases, the Court will usually require a bond equal to the value of the estate, less real property. After the newspaper notice has run, bond is posted and heir-at-law have acknowledged service, the Court may swear in the Administrator and issue Letters of Administration. In cases where the heirs-at-law are cooperating, Form 32 may be used to waive bond, waive reporting requirements or grant statutory powers. Power to act for the Estate commences upon qualification. O.C.G.A. § 53-7-1.

Notice to Debtors and Creditors

The Personal Representative, after taking office, must publish a notice to debtors and creditors in the County’s legal organ. See O.C.G.A. § 53-7-41. A typical notice will look as follows:

NOTICE TO DEBTORS AND CREDITORS

RE: Estate of _____________

All debtors and creditors of the Estate of ___________, deceased, late of [City], ________ County, Georgia, are hereby notified to render their demands and payments to the Personal Representative(s) of the estate, according to law, and all persons indebted to said estate are required to make immediate payment to the Personal Representative(s).
This [Date].

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