When a loved one dies, dividing up his or her estate has to be done in a specific way. Estate administration can be a complex process. There are certain steps that must be followed to make sure it is done properly and in accordance with Georgia law. So, what are the steps to estate administration?
Step number one: inventory and value. Before any assets can be divvied out to beneficiaries, it is necessary to inventory all assets first in order to make sure they are all accounted for, and it is also necessary to determine their value. This can take time, especially if the decedent failed to create or update an estate plan.
Step number two: open a probate case. While not all cases end up in probate court, it is necessary to open a probate case in order for a personal representative to access and distribute assets, pay creditors and pay taxes on the estate. This is easy to do — it is just a matter of filing the proper forms in court.
Step number three: pay debts and taxes. This cannot be avoided. Creditors must be given a specified period of time to file claims against the estate. If their claims are approved, money from the estate must be used to pay the debts. It is also necessary to file and pay final income taxes for the deceased and pay any estate taxes owed.
Finally, step number four: distribute and close the case. Once all taxes and creditors are paid and any claims made against the estate are resolved, then assets can be distributed to beneficiaries under the supervision of the court. Following the distributions, the probate case may be officially closed out.
In all, the estate administration process can take months, possibly years depending on whether any complex matters require resolving. This is not something family members have to go through alone. Legal counsel can help those who need to go through this process in Georgia get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible.