Probate Services in Savannah, GA
What is Probate?
Probate is a process that occurs after a person dies. At some point, most estates go through the probate process. The type of probate process required depends on the type of estate plan in place (or not, as the case may be).
The probate process is overseen by a specific court – the Probate Court. To ensure that property and other assets, including real property (i.e., houses and land) are properly transferred after death, it is important to consult with an attorney who can help you understand the process and strategize the most efficient way to distribute your loved one’s things.
Probate Services Offered by Stone & Sullivan
The attorneys at Stone & Sullivan, LLC can assist with the following probate matters:
- Petition for Letters of Administration
- Petition to Probate Will in Solemn Form (with or without will annexed)
- Petition to Probate Will in Common Form
- Petition for Order Declaring No Administration Necessary
- Petition for Year’s Support
- All other probate matters.
What is the First Step in the Probate Process?
The first step in the probate process is to locate the decedent’s will. An individual who has died is called the “decedent.” The will must be presented to the Probate Court in the county in which the decedent lived at the time of death with a Petition to Probate Will. The executor named in the will typically arranges for the Petition to be filed. If the Court is reasonably assured after reviewing the Petition and the will itself that the will is valid and enforceable, the Probate Court will issue Letters Testamentary to the executor. The Letters Testamentary permit the executor to begin dealing with the decedent’s estate, including paying bills, dealing with debts, and marshalling assets for distribution to the beneficiaries as required under the terms and conditions of the will.
What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?
If a will cannot be located or probated for some reason, or the individual died without a will, that person is said to have died “intestate.” What happens to their things is determined by Georgia law. Spouses and children are first in line to inherit. Thereafter, you look for parents and siblings, and so on down the family line. In the absence of a will, family relationships or the decedent’s wishes will not bar someone from inheriting. The rules are inflexible. The estate will be divided up and distributed according to the letter of the law.
What Assets are Not Included in a Probate Process?
The probate process does not apply to certain assets. Assets that do not go through the probate process include:
- Property in a revocable trust
- Real estate owned as “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship”
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary or beneficiaries
- Bank accounts with payable on death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) clauses.
What Assets Generally Require Probate
Assets that typically do require the attention of the Probate Court include:
- Bank accounts in the decedent’s name without a co-owner or without a beneficiary designation
- Real estate owned as tenants-in-common
- Stocks and bonds in the decedent’s name
- Tangible possession such as clothing, jewelry, household furniture, and cars registered in the decedent’s name only.
Georgia Counties Served by Stone & Sullivan for Probate Matters
Every county in Georgia has a Probate Court and a Probate Judge. The attorneys at Stone & Sullivan, LLC are prepared to assist with probate matters in Chatham, Effingham, Bryan and Liberty counties. The firm may consider representation in other counties upon request.