The loss of a loved one is a difficult time that involves not only the grief of losing someone, but also results in a difficult or contested legal proceeding involving that person’s estate.
“Probate” is the legal process that takes place after your death to pass legal title to your assets and to resolve any outstanding debts. There are two basic ways to handle an estate in the court system and those are Probate of a Will or Administration of an estate where a person had no Will.
“Probate of a Will” is the process where a valid Last Will and Testament was executed by the person who has passed away which directs a person called an “Executor” how to disburse his or her assets. This action must be initiated in the county of the deceased’s residence at the time of death by the individual named in the will to be “Executor”. In this case the Last Will and Testament is presented to the Probate Court with a formal petition by the named executor. A successful petition will result in the court issuing “Letters of Testamentary” to the petitioner along that give the Executor legal authority to execute the wishes of the decedent.
If a person dies without a Last Will and Testament a different procedure applies called “Administration”. In this case Georgia has laws that direct how the deceased’s estate should be disbursed. This process begins with the filing of a “Petition for Letters of Administration” in the county where the deceased live at the time of their death. If this petition is approved the Probate court will issue “Letters of Administration” to the successful petitioner, or some other person deemed fit. This document will provide the Administrator with the legal authority to handle the matters of the estate and disburse any property or funds according to the law.
When a will or trust lists multiple beneficiaries and Executors or Trustees to oversee the distribution of property and assets, disagreement on how the estate is being divided can arise. This escalation is made all the more complicated if the will is out of date or there is no will at all. These disagreements can result in the need for legal professionals to step in and help resolve the matter through litigation.
Some of the most common reasons for an estate to enter the litigation process include:
- Disputes over the validity of the purported will
- Errors in the will
- Omissions in the will
- Questions of interpretation of the will
- Changes in estate property
- Questions on how a Power of Attorney has used money or assets of the decedent
- Treatment of the decedent’s property as separate property or community property
- Value of the assets of the estate
- Ownership over a specific asset of the decedent
- Disputes over succession of a business
- Breach of duty by an Executor or Administrator
At John E. Tomlinson, P.C., our attorneys are experienced in Georgia Probate law and can help you with this process. Contact us today at (770) 554-4990, or by email.