If you proceed without an attorney, i.e., pro se (a Latin phrase meaning “for one’s self”), it will be your responsibility to determine or select the proceeding appropriate to your situation. The staff of the Probate Court may not make the determination or selection for you, since to do so may constitute the unauthorized practice of law, a misdemeanor crime under Georgia law. Neither the Court nor the County can accept responsibility for incorrect decisions made by the staff, and they have been directed to refrain from giving that kind of advice.

It will also be your responsibility to properly complete all forms, which must either be typed or legibly printed, and to assure the sufficiency and accuracy of all required information. The staff are not permitted to perform clerical tasks for the public and cannot accept responsibility for determining the legal sufficiency of the information required for any proceeding or form. The staff will be able to answer any basic questions about the standard forms and about any deadlines for the filing of proceedings. They will also be able to schedule uncontested hearings and tell you how other matters are scheduled by the Court.

The Probate Judge is required by law to remain impartial to all parties. The Judge must treat every case as though it may become contested. Therefore, the Judge also may not advise you on which proceeding is the most appropriate to your case. The Judge is prohibited from discussing the facts or evidence in any contested case with one party unless all parties are present or represented. You should not ask to discuss your case privately with the Judge, and you should understand if the Judge stops any discussion which appears to require the presence of others.

Furthermore, if you proceed without an attorney, it will be your responsibility to make arrangements for personal service on all persons upon whom personal service is required, to assure the filing of a proper return of service on all such persons, to assure the publication of any notices not performed by the court or its staff, and to secure the presence of or interrogatories from any witnesses whose testimony is necessary under law or desired by you for the presentation of your case. If the matter is contested, it will be your further responsibility to prepare yourself and your case for trial, including the pursuit of and response to discovery.

It is the responsibility for all such matters which would be assumed by an attorney employed to represent you, and you are again encouraged to consult first with an attorney before deciding whether to proceed pro se.

SOURCE: Judicial Branch of Georgia