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Do You Need a Cobb County Attorney to Finalize Your Loved One’s Estate?

Sept. 21, 2022

Three people looking at paperwork together“Probate” is an unfamiliar term to most, as it typically only becomes relevant after a loved one passes. While a time of mourning is natural, the months following a loved one’s passing also give rise to the term “Probate” and the process of finalizing the deceased’s estate. It is often an essential process even if the deceased had created a Will in her lifetime--unless the estate’s value is below a minimum threshold.  

What is Probate? 

Probate is a legal process that supervises the distribution of assets in an estate. If a Will exists, probate ensures the authenticity of the document and follows the deceased’s wishes to direct how their assets should be distributed. In some cases, a Will might be declared invalid or illegitimate, thus complicating distribution. The probate process can become quite complex if there are multiple heirs or beneficiaries. Having a skilled attorney can make all the difference in the administration of an estate during the probate process. There are many benefits to working with a skilled Cobb County probate attorney even when there is no dispute about a will or estate. 

Probate is generally necessary when someone dies and leaves behind property, such as real estate and bank accounts. In Georgia, probate may not be necessary for estates with assets worth less than $10,000. 

It's important to note that probate isn't only for people who own property—it can also apply if you have minor children who inherit money or property through their parents' estates. In this case, the court will appoint someone (usually called a guardian) to manage your child's inheritance until he or she turns 18 years old. The court supervises this type of situation because minors lack the ability to make legal decisions on their own behalf; therefore, they need someone else to represent them during legal proceedings involving their finances until they become adults at age 18 and are able to enter into binding agreements independently. 

If there is a Will, probate will take care of authenticating the document and following its instructions as to how assets should be distributed. However, in some cases, Wills can be declared invalid or illegitimate, which would complicate distribution. 

If no Will exists, probate still needs to follow through with appointing an administrator for the estate. This person is responsible for marshalling assets (meaning collecting them), paying debts (creditors), and distributing any remaining assets according to state law if there are no other provisions made in a separate contract or agreement between parties having rights in those assets 

The probate process can become quite complex if there are multiple heirs or beneficiaries. Having a skilled attorney can make all the difference in the administration of an estate during the probate process. 

A skilled attorney will be able to help you avoid unnecessary stress and expense as you work through this challenging time by ensuring that all deadlines are met, your rights are protected, and the wishes outlined in the will carried out. The probate process can be complicated by a number of legal factors including joint accounts held with surviving spouses, children under 18 years old who have not yet attained legal majority (which is 18 in Georgia), multiple states where assets may have been located prior to death, complex business interests and real property disputes between family members. As a practical matter, probate can also be complicated by the number of financial accounts held by the testator as well as large debts or even numerous small or medium debts such as credit cards or personal loans. If any of these scenarios apply to your situation, then an experienced attorney should be consulted before proceeding with any actions related to claiming an inheritance or making decisions about how assets should be distributed. 

Is Probate Required? 

In Georgia, probate may not be necessary for estates with assets worth less than $10,000. In some cases, however, probate may be required even if the estate is worth less than $10,000. If the estate is worth more than $10,000 and there are no heirs or beneficiaries named in the will who are not already on record at the Cobb County Courthouse in Marietta (which they would need to establish their claim), then probate will likely be required before any distributions can take place. Generally, an executor or personal administrator has 4 years in order to timely file a probate. 

If an individual dies without a will and other testamentary documents have not been properly updated since his death (for example: during divorce proceedings), then it is possible that a surviving spouse could still inherit from him under intestacy laws; however, this depends on whether those laws were sufficiently followed during divorce proceedings—they often aren't. 

Do I Need an Attorney? 

There are many benefits to working with a skilled Cobb County probate attorney, even when there is no dispute about a will or estate. Attorneys can help you avoid unnecessary stress and expense of the probate process by guiding you through the steps of probating an estate. They can also help you avoid probate altogether by using creative techniques that allow for some estate assets to pass outside of the probate process. 

An experienced attorney will be able to guide you through what many find to be a confusing and sometimes frustrating experience when dealing with property issues in Georgia,  

When you're dealing with a probate, it's important to have an experienced estate attorney on your side. An experienced Cobb County probate lawyer will: 

  • Avoid the stress of dealing with legal issues on your own 

  • Prevent the worry about the probate process being done correctly 

  • Speed up the process by assisting you in identifying assets, preparing preliminary paperwork, opening bank accounts in which estate funds are deposited  

  • Help avoid conflicts between beneficiaries and family members 

Can I Avoid Probate? 

The absolute best way to avoid the time, expense, and hassle of probate is to prepare early. If you have the right estate plan in place most if not all of the probate can be avoided. Having an attorney helps ensure that you have considered every contingency while preparing your will and that you have handled any other estate planning needs before it is too late. An attorney can guide you through the process of creating a will or trust and make sure that the document covers all your wishes. They will also help minimize the potential for disputes among family members over wills and estates. 

While the probate process may seem incredibly daunting, you don’t have to go through it alone.  

Here, knowledge is power, and a Cobb County probate lawyer possesses the knowledge to help you navigate the process as efficiently and painlessly as possible. A qualified probate lawyer will decrease your burden by making sure that essential acts occur on a productive schedule. These tasks include validating the will, listing assets, filing court documentation, notifying the public via newspaper, scheduling expert appraisals, consolidating and paying debts, notifying creditors, paying taxes, and divvying up the remainder to beneficiaries. 

Having a probate attorney by your side through all of this can save you time, money, and heartache. Other than being a master organizer, your probate lawyer will be able to act as an objective voice when conflicts arise. Having an educated, objective voice can help you to avoid the courtroom by solving problems faster and more efficiently. Also, you will have a defender if some type of unanticipated legal conflict arises. 

If you have recently suffered a loss, and are overwhelmed by what you now face, give us a call. Jesse A. Block and the Block Law team are ready to help you navigate this highly stressful time. Give us a call today at (770) 387-4529 and let us take the burden off your shoulders.