Probate Courts in Georgia are courts of limited but exclusive jurisdiction over (a) the probate of wills and the administration of estates of deceased persons, (b) the appointment of guardians of the person and property of incapacitated adults, (c) the appointment of guardians of the property of minors, (d) the appointment, in certain circumstances, of guardians of the person of minors, and (e) the commitment for involuntary treatment of persons addicted to drugs or alcohol and/or suffering from mental illness. Probate Courts also issue certain licenses and permits and perform certain administrative duties. In many counties, the Probate Court exercises limited criminal jurisdiction (traffic cases, game and fish violations, etc.) Some Probate Judges also serve as the Elections Superintendent and/or Vital Records Custodian for their counties. In certain counties, the Probate Judge is also the Magistrate Court Judge.
The Probate Court of Cobb County is an “Article 6 Probate Court” [Title 15, Chapter 9, Article 6, Official Code of Georgia Annotated] and has an enhanced or expanded jurisdiction. Under Article 6, which applies in counties having a population of 96,000 or more, the Probate Judge must be a licensed attorney with experience and qualifications equal to those for serving in the Superior Courts of Georgia. Article 6 Probate Courts have certain concurrent jurisdiction with the Superior Courts and may conduct jury trials in issues properly before the court. Appeals from Article 6 Probate Courts are directly to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, as appropriate.
Many of the procedures filed in the Probate Courts in Georgia are by use of the Georgia Probate Court Standard Forms. Not all proceedings have a standard form applicable to them. All Georgia Probate Court Standard Forms are available in each Probate Court. These forms are also available at, may be downloaded from, and may be compiled on the Georgia Probate Court On-Line System.
Information about metro Atlanta probate courts:
Probate Court of Cherokee County
Judge B. Keith Wood
90 North Street
Canton, GA 30114
Phone: 678 -493- 6160
Probate court of Cobb County
Kelli Wolk, Chief Judge
32 Waddell Street
Marietta, GA 30090
(770) 528-1996 fax
View Web site
Clerk of Court (770) 528-1900
Estates Division (770) 528-1900
Firearms License ( 770) 528-1922
Marriage License (770) 528-1921
Probate Court of Fulton County
Judge Pinkie Toomer,
T2705 Justice Center Tower
185 Central Avenue, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Phone: 404 -612- 4640
Appointment of Guаrdіаnѕ fоr Chіldrеn undеr Gеоrgіа Law
Thе Gеоrgіа Code ѕtаtеѕ thе роwеrѕ and thе responsibilities оf guаrdіаnѕ:
Thе power оf a guаrdіаn оvеr thе mіnоr shall bе thе ѕаmе as thаt оf a parent оvеr a child; thе guаrdіаn standing in place оf thе раrеnt. A guardian ѕhаll аt аll times асt аѕ a fiduciary іn thе mіnоr’ѕ bеѕt interest аnd еxеrсіѕе rеаѕоnаblе care, diligence, and рrudеnсе. O.C.G.A. § 29-2-21
Thе rеѕроnѕіbіlіtіеѕ of thе guardian include, but are nоt lіmіtеd tо O.C.G.A. § 29-2-21:
Respect thе rіghtѕ аnd dіgnіtу of thе mіnоr;
Arrаngе fоr thе ѕuрроrt, саrе, education, hеаlth, and wеlfаrе of the mіnоr considering thе mіnоr’ѕ аvаіlаblе rеѕоurсеѕ;
Take rеаѕоnаblе саrе of the minor’s реrѕоnаl еffесtѕ;
Exреnd mоnеу of thе mіnоr that hаѕ bееn received by thе guardian for the mіnоr’ѕ сurrеnt needs fоr ѕuрроrt, саrе, еduсаtіоn, hеаlth, аnd wеlfаrе;
Cоnѕеrvе for thе mіnоr’ѕ future nееdѕ any еxсеѕѕ mоnеу оf thе mіnоr rесеіvеd bу thе guаrdіаn;
If necessary, реtіtіоn tо hаvе a conservator арроіntеd.
Tуреѕ of Guаrdіаnѕ O.C.G.A. § 29-2-1
Nаturаl guardians (раrеntѕ, or іn case of divorce, раrеnt wіth ѕоlе custody or bоth іf jоіnt lеgаl custody O.C.G.A. § 29-2-3);
Testamentary guаrdіаnѕ (individual nоmіnаtеd bу child’s раrеntѕ іn a wіll O.C.G.A. § 29-2-4);
Tеmроrаrу guardians (ѕее bеlоw);
Stаndbу guаrdіаnѕ (nominated by раrеnt оr сurrеnt guаrdіаn реndіng hеаlth іѕѕuеѕ O.C.G.A. § 29-2-10); аnd
Permanent guаrdіаnѕ (where сhіld hаѕ no nаturаl guаrdіаn, tеѕtаmеntаrу guаrdіаn, оr реrmаnеnt guаrdіаn O.C.G.A. § 29-2-14).
Tеmроrаrу Guаrdіаnѕ оf Mіnоrѕ O.C.G.A. §§ 29-2-1 -29-2-8
1. What іѕ a tеmроrаrу guаrdіаn?
A temporary guardian іѕ a реrѕоn арроіntеd bу the probate court to take саrе of a сhіld whоѕе раrеntѕ оr other guardians hаvе tеmроrаrіlу gіvеn up thеіr parental rights
2. Who hаѕ thе right to аррlу fоr a tеmроrаrу guardianship?
Any реrѕоn who already hаѕ рhуѕісаl сuѕtоdу of thе сhіld аnd іѕ nоt himself (hеrѕеlf) a minor, wаrd оr оthеr рrоtесtеd person; оr whо dоеѕ not hаvе a conflict of іntеrеѕt wіth thе minor, although thе соnflісt may bе overcome bу a judge’s dеtеrmіnаtіоn of the сhіld’ѕ best interests. A реrѕоn CANNOT gеt tеmроrаrу guаrdіаnѕhір оf сhіld that іѕ nоt аlrеаdу in his оr her сuѕtоdу.
3. What рrоbаtе соurt has thе аuthоrіtу tо арроіnt a tеmроrаrу guаrdіаn?
The рrоbаtе соurt оf the county whеrе thе сhіld аnd thе реtіtіоnеr rеѕіdе hаѕ thе аuthоrіtу. If thе реtіtіоnеr іѕ оnlу tеmроrаrіlу іn the ѕtаtе, аnd has rеѕіdеnсе іn аnоthеr ѕtаtе, thеn thе county where thе сhіld is сurrеntlу living.
4. In оrdеr for thе tеmроrаrу guаrdіаnѕhір tо take рlасе, muѕt thе parents оr thе guаrdіаnѕ gіvе uр thеіr раrеntаl rights?
Thе parents оr guаrdіаnѕ muѕt temporarily give uр оr rеlіnԛuіѕh their раrеntаl rіghtѕ. Thе nоtаrіzеd dосumеnt that іѕ used tо dо thіѕ muѕt be раrt оf the guardianship реtіtіоn. If оnе or both раrеntѕ dо not give uр thеіr rіghtѕ vоluntаrіlу, thе раrеnt not gіvіng up hіѕ оr hеr rіghtѕ must be рrореrlу nоtіfіеd оf thе petition fоr temporary guardianship. If an address is unknоwn, уоu mау bе аblе tо nоtіfу thе parent bу рublісаtіоn іn a lеgаl nеwѕрареr.
5. Whаt if the parents or guаrdіаnѕ оbjесt tо surrendering thеіr rіghtѕ, even on a tеmроrаrу basis?
If a parent оbjесtѕ to thе guаrdіаnѕhір, thе соurt wіll аutоmаtісаllу dismiss the guаrdіаnѕhір unlеѕѕ thе objecting parent dоеѕ nоt have lеgаl сuѕtоdу of thе сhіld (thе parents were nоt mаrrіеd аt thе birth оf thе сhіld, аnd the fаthеr has nоt lеgіtіmаtеd; OR the parents аrе dіvоrсеd аnd оnlу оnе раrеnt hаѕ custody оf the сhіld). If thе objecting раrеnt does nоt have lеgаl custody, thеrе will bе a hеаrіng on the mаttеr. Additionally, the parents mау аррrоvе оf the guardianship, but оbjесt tо thе реrѕоn аррlуіng fоr guаrdіаnѕhір (fоr еxаmрlе, they want ѕоmеоnе else to bе the guаrdіаn). In thіѕ саѕе, there will аlѕо bе a hеаrіng. Thе parents have a limited tіmе tо оbjесt tо the соurt, depending оn thе method of nоtісе.
6. Does thе parent thе parent оr guаrdіаn always have thе right tо ѕеlесt thе person tо bе thе tеmроrаrу guаrdіаn?
The parent does have the rіght to mаkе thе сhоісе. Hоwеvеr, fоr good саuѕе, thе judgе оf thе рrоbаtе соurt mау choose someone еlѕе, аlthоugh thіѕ dоеѕ nоt hарреn оftеn.
7. If the bіоlоgісаl father оr аn unknоwn fаthеr does nоt соnѕеnt tо the guаrdіаnѕhір, does hе hаvе tо bе notified?
Yеѕ. If thе аddrеѕѕ іѕ known, hе muѕt bе notified bу реrѕоnаl ѕеrvісе if hе rеѕіdеѕ in Georgia, оr bу fіrѕt-сlаѕѕ mаіl іf he rеѕіdеѕ оutѕіdе thе ѕtаtе. If the аddrеѕѕ іѕ unknown, уоu саn nоtіfу thе fаthеr by рublіѕhіng a lеgаl аdvеrtіѕеmеnt in thе соurt dеѕіgnаtеd nеwѕрареr, a process known аѕ рublісаtіоn.
8. Dоеѕ the сhіld hаvе any ѕау іn thіѕ рrосеѕѕ?
Thе соurt wіll tаkе into соnѕіdеrаtіоn the wіѕh оf the сhіld. Hоwеvеr, the court hаѕ thе dіѕсrеtіоn tо make the fіnаl dесіѕіоn.
9. How long dоеѕ a temporary guardianship last?
Thе guardianship remains іn effect until оnе оf the fоllоwіng еvеntѕ оссurѕ: the сhіld reaches аgе 18, the сhіld іѕ adopted, the сhіld іѕ еmаnсіраtеd, the сhіld dіеѕ, thе tеmроrаrу guardian dіеѕ, lеttеrѕ оf guаrdіаnѕhір are іѕѕuеd to a реrmаnеnt or tеѕtаmеntаrу guardian, or a court order tеrmіnаtіng thе tеmроrаrу guаrdіаnѕhір іѕ еntеrеd.
10. Can a раrеnt dіѕѕоlvе thе guаrdіаnѕhір?
Yеѕ. Once thе раrеnt аррlіеѕ tо hаvе the guardianship dіѕѕоlvеd, notice іѕ provided tо thе tеmроrаrу guardian оf thе аррlісаtіоn tо tеrmіnаtе the guаrdіаnѕhір. If no objection is fіlеd within ten days of notice, thе judgе will dissolve thе tеmроrаrу guаrdіаnѕhір.
If аn оbjесtіоn іѕ fіlеd, thе рrоbаtе judge wіll trаnѕfеr thе case tо thе juvеnіlе court, whісh wіll gіvе bоth ѕіdеѕ notice аnd hold a hеаrіng. Thе juvеnіlе court wіll mаkе the decision whether or not the guаrdіаnѕhір remains іn the bеѕt іntеrеѕt of the сhіld.
11. Dоеѕ the tеmроrаrу guаrdіаnѕhір rеlеаѕе the parents frоm thеіr оblіgаtіоn tо support thе child?
Nо, іt dоеѕ not release thеm. They ѕtіll hаvе tо ѕuрроrt thе child fіnаnсіаllу.
12. Iѕ thеrе a fаѕtеr way thаn gоіng thrоugh thе courts tо get a guаrdіаnѕhір? Can I juѕt wrіtе ѕоmеthіng оn a ріесе оf рареr? Whаt іf I ѕіgn аnd nоtаrіzе thе рареr?
No. Thеrе іѕ nоw a statutory роwеr of аttоrnеу thаt раrеntѕ саn give a grаndраrеnt, great-grandparent, step-grandparent, оr ѕtер-grеаt grandparent. OCGA 19-9-122 (2009). Thеrе must bе a hardship fоr thе раrеnt such as loss of hоmе, serious іllnеѕѕ, оr іnсаrсеrаtіоn. The роwеr оf аttоrnеу аllоwѕ thе grаndраrеnt аgеnt to еnrоll thе child in ѕсhооl, provide for the сhіld’ѕ mеdісаl care, аnd in оthеr rеѕресtѕ, рrоvіdе for the child (fооd, lodging, recreation, trаvеl, and оthеrѕ specified bу thе раrеntѕ). There is a specific fоrm which must bе used to сrеаtе thе power of аttоrnеу. A hand-written аgrееmеnt, еvеn іf nоtаrіzеd, wіll not bе еnоugh tо сrеаtе a power оf attorney. Contact уоur local lеgаl аіd оffісе for mоrе information.
NOTE: For more comprehensive protection for the long term AND the short term, click HERE for details on our ProtectMyKids Plan™
SOURCE FOR POST: Atlanta Legal Aid.
Our Marietta Georgia divorce lawyers and Cobb County GA divorce attorneys are here to help you with your questions about how to get a divorce in Georgia. What are your rights? What are your likely obligations? What procedures are there to get you to a final divorce? This article containing information from Atlanta Legal Aid, discusses briefly the basic process of a contested divorce case and an uncontested divorce case.
It is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce.
If you do not have an attorney, then you are representing yourself in court and are applying for a divorce “pro se” (pronounced “pro say”). You may be able to find forms and instructions on how to file for a divorce in the Clerk’s office or the courthouse law library. A few courts have a specific pro se section that will help you.
(1) File the Complaint for Divorce. First you file a Complaint for Divorce and tell the court why you want a divorce. You must tell the court why you want a divorce. There are specific reasons that the law will allow you to get a divorce. You must say which of the reasons you are asking the court to grant a divorce. In the Complaint you must also tell the court what you want the court to do. Do you want custody of any children you and your spouse have? Do you want the court to award you child support so that you can have money to take care of the children? How do you want the court to divide the property that you and your spouse have? There is a fee to file for a divorce.
You generally file the Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court of the county where your spouse lives. You may file in the county where you both lived if your spouse moved to another county within six months of the date you are filing. If your spouse has moved out of state, you can file in your county.
(2) Service of Process – the Legal Way to Give the Complaint for Divorce to Your Spouse. You must have a copy of the Complaint for Divorce “served” on your spouse. This means that the sheriff or another “process server” will give the divorce papers to your spouse in the way that the law requires. This is called “service of process”. There is also a fee to have the Complaint served.
(3) Hearing or Trial. After your Complaint for Divorce is served on your spouse the spouse may file an answer. If your spouse does not file an answer, your divorce is considered to be “uncontested”. If there are no issues to be decided (such as child custody, child support, division of property, etc.) then the court will schedule a hearing where the court will make a final decision. If the divorce is contested by your spouse (when they file the Answer), the court may schedule the case for a temporary hearing or a trial.
Courts have different schedules for trying divorces. The court may require that the parties attend mediation. Check with the Clerk of Court concerning your court’s requirements.
Again, it is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce.
I Have Not Seen My Spouse For Years and I Do Not Know Where My Spouse Is. Can I Still Get a Divorce?
Yes. You will need to tell the court that you tried to find the defendant. You give the court a signed, statement (an “affidavit”) where you:
- swear that to the best of your knowledge the whereabouts of your spouse (the defendant) are unknown
- swear that you have used reasonable diligence in trying to find out where the defendant is currently
- state what the last residence of the defendant was.
A notice must then be published in the newspaper that the court designates for such notices for four (4) consecutive weeks. If your spouse does not file an Answer within 60 days after the notice is first published, the court can grant the divorce at a hearing. NOTE: In a divorce by publication the court cannot award alimony, child support, or property situated outside of Georgia.
If your spouse does file an Answer, the court will schedule a trial.
My Spouse Now Lives in Another State, Can I Still Get A Divorce In Georgia?
Yes. If your spouse was a resident of Georgia at one time, you can request child support, alimony and property division. You will have to arrange to have the petition for divorce “served” on your spouse in the new state.
My Spouse Has Never Lived In Georgia, Can I Still Get A Divorce?
Yes, if you have lived in Georgia for six months or more. But if the court cannot get personal jurisdiction over your spouse then it can not award alimony or child support, or award property in another state. “Personal jurisdiction” means that there are enough connections between your spouse and the State of Georgia that the Georgia Courts have the power to make decisions that will affect your spouse. This is a complicated area of law.
Again, it is always a good idea to have an attorney represent you when getting a divorce.
SOURCE FOR POST: Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc
What does emancipation mean?
For many purposes, an emancipated minor is considered an adult. An emancipated minor is no longer under the care, custody or control of a parent. Emancipation allows a minor to make medical, financial and housing decisions. An emancipated minor can do many things without his or her parent’s consent, such as sign leases, apply for public benefits, register for school, and apply for a driver’s license. Emancipation also means that the minor’s parents are no longer obligated to provide financial support. Under most circumstances, emancipation means that a parent is no longer required to pay court-ordered child support.
What are the ways to become emancipated?
There are four (4) ways to become emancipated under Georgia law:
- When a minor is legally married, the minor is automatically considered emancipated.
- When a minor turn 18 years of age, the minor is automatically considered emancipated.
- When a minor is on active duty in the U.S. military, the minor is automatically considered emancipated
- A minor can file a petition in the Juvenile Court asking for a court order stating that he or she is emancipated.
Are there rights that a court-emancipated minor does not have?
An emancipated minor does not have the right to vote, purchase alcohol, or do other things that the law limits to older people for health and safety reasons.
Who can be emancipated by a Juvenile Court Order?
- Minors who are at least 16 years old and less than 18 years old may apply for emancipation in Juvenile Court. The minor must be a Georgia resident.
How does a minor prove that the emancipation should be granted?
The minors must be able to show:
- That the minor’s parents or guardians do not object to emancipation. If they do object, then the minor must show that the emancipation is in his or her best interests.
- That the minor has the ability to manage his or her own financial affairs. This includes having proof of employment or other means of support (not public assistance).
- That the minor has the ability to manage his or her own personal and social affairs. This includes having proof of a place to live.That the minor understands his or her rights and responsibilities after emancipation.
The minor must list any adults who have personal knowledge of the minor’s situation and who believe that emancipation is in the best interest of the minor. The court will contact these adults and seek a sworn statement from the adults describing why the adult believes the minor should be emancipated. Some examples of adults the minor might list are:
- A doctor or nurse
- A psychologist, counselor or therapist
- A social worker or school guidance counselor
- A school administrator, principal or teacher
- A clergy member
- A law enforcement officer
- An attorney
Anyone involved in the emancipation case can ask the court to assign an employee or appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate and make a recommendation as to whether emancipation is in the best interest of the minor. The court can also appoint an attorney for the minor and appoint an attorney for the parents or guardian if they are indigent and oppose the petition.
Can a minor obtain Juvenile Court emancipation without informing his or her parents or guardians?
No. All living parents (or guardians) must be notified of the minor’s request for emancipation. The minor must list each parent’s (or guardian’s) name and last known address. Sometimes the minor’s parents (or guardians) are no longer living or cannot be found. In this case, the minor must list the name and address of the nearest living Georgia relative.
Where should a petition for emancipation be filed?
The petition should be filed in the Juvenile Court in the county where the minor lives.
Can the parents or guardian object to a petition for emancipation?
Yes. If a parent or guardian objects to the emancipation, the adult should attend all hearings. Plus the parent or guardian who objects must file a formal, written answer with the Juvenile Court within thirty (30) days of being served. A listed adult also has the right to file an objection to the emancipation. If the parents or guardian cannot afford an attorney, then the court may appoint an attorney to represent them.
Can an emancipated minor reverse the process?
Yes, an emancipated minor may ask the court to have its emancipation reversed. This is called a petition for rescission. The court will reverse the emancipation for one of the following reasons:
- the minor is indigent and has no means of support;
- the minor and the parents or guardian agree that the emancipation be rescinded; or
- the minor has resumed a family relationship with his or her parents or guardian that is not consistent with the original emancipation.
A rescinded emancipation does not allow the minor to avoid obligations (like debts) made during the time he or she was emancipated.
SOURCE: Atlanta Legal Aid
When a loved one passes away, it is an understandably stressful time. It can be even more stressful and/or traumatic trying to remember all of the details that must be taken care of related to a person’s death. If you are in charge of handling the affairs of the decedent (the person who has died), here is a checklist of some of the more important considerations:
Place of Death. If the individual dies in a hospital or hospice, the medical personnel will take the lead on “next steps” although they will want to know which mortuary or funeral home should be called at the appropriate time. If the individual dies at home, call the paramedics or the police so that the proper pronouncement of death can be made.
Organ Donation/Anatomical Gifts. If the deceased has consented to be an organ donor or the family is willing to consent to organ donation and the individual dies at home, the paramedics should be called immediately and be sure to let the dispatcher know that the person is a potential organ donor as time is of the essence. If consent has been given for the body of the deceased to be an anatomical gift, follow the instructions provided by the institution or organization receiving the gift.
Notify Immediate Family. As soon as possible and practical, notify immediate family and friends about the death of the loved one. This will assist them in making arrangements quickly to be with you during this time. If a family member or close friend can be designated to make these contacts, this could relieve you of a great deal of stress. In order to assist them, have prepared an accurate listing of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of family members and/or friends to be notified in the event of such emergencies.
There are a number of tasks with which family and friends can lend a hand, such as:
- answering the phone
- collecting mail
- caring for pets
- locating important items such as keys, insurance policies, claims forms, addresses for magazine subscriptions, etc.
- staying at the home during the wake, funeral, and/or memorial services to guard against break-ins that commonly occur during that time
- organizing food for family and friends after the services
Notify the Clergy. Contact the deceased’s Pastor, Rabbi, Priest or other designated religious leader if there is one in order to facilitate counseling for family members and members of the deceased’s congregation, synagogue or parish. They will also be involved in making arrangements for any final religious services.
Funeral Home/Mortuary and Cemetery/Mausoleum. If no arrangements have been previously made, contact the funeral home or mortuary of your choice to carry out the final preparations and/or burial instructions. Any advance preparation in this area alleviates a lot of stress during an already stressful period. Most funeral homes and/or mortuaries are happy to talk with individuals to provide helpful pre-needs information and arrangements. Someone will have to be authorized to make the decisions concerning the disposition of the remains of the deceased. A final resting place should have already been secured and the proper person will need to be notified of the date of interment as soon as a date is set.
Obtain Death Certificate. A death certificate must be completed and signed by either an attending physician, the medical examiner/county coroner or in the case of persons dying in a hospice program a registered professional nurse employed by the hospice. The death certificate is filed with a local registrar and transmitted to the vital records registration system for recording in the state’s official records. Certified copies of the death certificate can be obtained after the death certificate has been filed with the local registrar. Certified copies will have printed upon them the following language:
“This is an exact copy of the death certificate received for filing in County.”
The certified copy must display an official seal.
Copies of the Death Certificate. Once the death certificate is available, copies need to be sent to all insurance companies, in order to receive the proceeds from any insurance policies.
Notifying Employer, Social Security. Notify the employer of the deceased so that the proper paperwork can be completed. This may affect payroll and benefits, as well as the general morale and work schedule of the deceased’s co-workers. Also notify the local office of the Social Security Administration and any other income sources immediately. Any benefits received after the date of death will need to be returned to Social Security. The surviving family member or estate is entitled to a one-time $255 death benefit from Social Security. Pensions, annuities and other income sources will have different rules. Check the plan or contact the administrator of those plans for further details.
Notifying the Guardian/Agent. If there is a guardianship, a power of attorney or a durable power of attorney for healthcare, those persons need to be notified that their responsibilities are at an end.
Bank Accounts. If there are bank accounts on which someone is a “surviving owner”, (the account may read “POD” for payable upon death or joint owners with “ROS”, for right of survivorship) a death certificate needs to be provided to the bank so that the surviving owner can now take ownership. Otherwise, access to the accounts may be blocked until someone is appointed as an official agent on behalf of the estate.
Wills. If there is a Will, when the person dies, the law requires that it be filed (the law does not require that it be probated) with the Probate Court in the County where the decedent lived. The Clerk will provide the executor or executrix of the Will with the necessary paperwork. Expenses of the last illness and funeral should be paid from the estate before any additional disbursements are made. All remaining assets and properties can be disbursed through the probate process.
When there is no Will. If there is no Will, and an administration of the estate is desired, this is also done in the County Probate Court. Expenses of the last illness and funeral or final arrangements should be paid from the estate before any additional disbursements are made. All remaining assets and properties can be disbursed through the administration of the estate.
Creditors. Letters should be sent to all creditors informing them of the persons death. If any life insurance coverage exists on open accounts to pay off the remaining balances, a copy of the death certificate will be required. Do not agree to personally be responsible for paying the balances on any outstanding account. The estate is liable, not individual family members unless that family member was a named account holder, regardless of the insistence of the creditors. If nothing remains in the estate to pay off debts, then creditors should be so informed.
Utility Companies. Local utilities (telephone, gas, electricity, cable) should be notified only if someone else wants to be substituted on the accounts. Otherwise wait until you decide whether or not and when the utilities are to be discontinued. In any event, the utility bills must be paid in order to keep the utilities on.
Newspaper and Mail. The newspaper subscription will need to be discontinued if no one else resides at the home of the deceased and the Post Office may need to be contacted about a forwarding address for mail, if no one will be at the home to receive it.
Tax Refunds. Any Tax refunds that arrive after the decedent’s death will be a part of the estate and will have to be distributed according to the Will or the Administration process.
Taxes Owed. Any taxes owed will have to be paid out of the estate or voluntarily by a surviving family member.
Homestead Exemptions. Any homestead exemptions are generally going to be tied to the individual if that person was a senior or otherwise qualified for an exemption. The exemption may no longer be applicable unless the new homeowner meets the requirements.
Personal Property. Things like titles to automobiles, automobile insurance and house insurance will have to be changed eventually. Homeowner’s insurance policies should be reviewed carefully for instructions concerning coverage of unoccupied premises.
Out-of-State Property. If property is owned out-of-state, the Will should be probated or the estate Administrated in the state of residence first and the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration (they may be called something else in another state) used to handle the property in the other state.
No Property. If there was no property left in the decedent’s name and no other assets that need to be transferred, then there are probably very few estate matters to be handled. Georgia requires that a Will be filed with the Court if there is one, whether or not it is actually probated.
Right of Survivorship Property. If property or accounts were in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants “with the right of survivorship”, then ownership automatically passes to the survivor(s) without the need for probate or administration of the estate.
Disposing of Personal Items and Clothing. Although one of the most heartbreaking tasks when a loved one dies, as soon as emotionally possible, every effort should be made to dispose of those items which will no longer be used by the survivors. The timing of this is handled differently from person to person. If too soon, it may prevent survivors from having adequate time to grieve, while if it takes too long, it may seriously delay the ending of the grieving process, acting as a very painful and constant reminder of the person’s death. Only a few items should be retained as mementos.
No items should be moved, sold, given away or otherwise disposed of if they have been identified in the person’s Will as items to be distributed as a part of the estate. Only the legal beneficiary of those items is entitled to make the decision as to their disposal.
Documents to locate. There are some documents that may be needed or at least helpful in settling the estate of the deceased. These documents should be located and kept together in one place until they can be turned over to the person in charge of carrying out this part of the affairs of the deceased. Included in the list of documents to be sought:
- funeral and burial plans/contracts
- safe deposit rental agreement and keys
- trust agreements
- nuptial agreements/marriage licenses/prenuptial agreements/divorce papers
- life insurance policies or statements
- pension, IRA, retirement statements
- income tax returns for the past three years
- gift tax returns
- birth and death certificates
- military records and discharge papers
- budgets/bookkeeping records
- bank statements, checkbooks, check registers, certificates of deposits
- deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages and mortgage releases, title policies, leases
- motor vehicle titles
- stock and bond certificates and account statements
- unpaid bills, notes
- health/accident and sickness policies
- bankruptcy papers: filings and releases
This is certainly not intended to be an exhaustive list of every detail to which attention must be given nor does this alleviate the need to ask questions about topic areas that may not have been mentioned. It is an attempt to provide some initial guidance to those in the position of having responsibility for handling the affairs of a deceased loved one. These are just some of the more fundamental core items. The emotional issues will have to be dealt with and special care should be taken when a loved one dies leaving young survivors or elderly survivors. Support groups and counselors should be contacted at the initial signs of depression.
SOURCE: Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Aging Services