Probate
Lisa Blackstone, Attorney

Lisa Blackstone, Attorney

Atlanta Probate Attorney, Lisa Blackstone practices in all the metro Atlanta counties, offering probate services to families who need the gentle counsel and support of an attorney who understands this very difficult time.

Besides offering a guiding hand, she avoids legalese and speaks plain English to bring you an understanding of Georgia estate administration.

There are many things you need to consider during the process and it can be overwhelming, especially with a fragile and emotional mind frame. Most people find comfort in delegating this task to an attorney who can handle it for them.

If you select the right Atlanta probate attorney, the process won’t be intimidating. Contrary to what you may hear, probate is no longer something you need to avoid. Georgia streamlined their probate process and have very “user friendly” probate courts.

In fact, if you feel capable, you may be able to proceed without an attorney at all! Just be sure you have a full understanding of your duties and carry them out properly. There are several articles on this site that will give you some guidance about what to be mindful of.

There is a slightly different procedure depending on whether the deceased left a valid will or not.

Remember, a will allows YOU to decide how to leave your property. Without a will, the STATE decides who gets your property, and it is not always intuitive! For example, surprisingly, in Georgia the surviving spouse does not receive all of the property from their spouse if they had children.

There is an article on this site delineating what the Georgia statute dictates regarding descent and distribution and it is worth looking at. If you do not have a will, you really need to get that done!

Assuming there is a will, you as the executor will need to go through certain steps to probate the will and administer the estate. For example, you will need to contact all the natural heirs of the deceased, provide them with certain paper work as well as copies of the will. This can be easy or more difficult depending on how many there are and how easy they are to reach.

If these steps become very involved (depending on the nature of the estate) you may want help. Most of us faced with the loss of a loved one, embarking on this process may be more than you want to take on at this time in your life. Then, let an Atlanta Probate Attorney help you get through it efficiently, correctly and with as little hassle as possible.

You can look for Atlanta probate attorneys through various sources. Whomever you choose, be sure it is someone with whom you feel comfortable and can trust during this time. It is not necessary to find a probate attorney in your same county because probate is conducted the same in all the metro counties. Just pick someone you like and trust them to help you.

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PROBATE FORMS – A Guide from an Atlanta Probate Attorney

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Lisa Blackstone, Attorney

As an Atlanta probate attorney, I have become very familiar with the probate forms you will need.

For those of you who have decided to go it alone and administer the estate yourself, this article will be very helpful.

I cannot cover all the potential issues you may face, but I can give you some direction with regard to the process and what probate forms to use.

Georgia has standard probate forms online.  The first thing you should do is go to www.gaprobate.org.  Regardless of the county in which you live, the forms are the same.

Once at the site, click on Probate Court Standard Forms, located near the middle of the web page at the top of the Quick Find list.  Carefully read the instructional paragraphs and be sure you understand what you are reading.

Then, select which word processing program you want to use on the right (Word Perfect or Microsoft  Word or PDF).  You can also download the PDF probate forms and fill them out by hand, rather than on your computer’s word processing program if you prefer.

If you do not have a computer, you can get the probate forms at your county’s Probate Court.

A list of all probate forms will appear on the first page You will see a list of 71 filing forms.  Each of these 71 forms include multiple forms within that category.  Don’t be intimidated.  You probably won’t need many of them!  If you do, stop right now and hire an attorney!

For purposes of this article, we are assuming that there is a valid will left by the deceased, that included an attestation page for the witnesses, the surviving spouse being the only heir, and the named Executor is competent and willing to serve as Executor.

If there was no will, read my article on Probate Laws and follow the directions there.  Most often, you will need the forms found in #5. Petition to Probate Will in Solemn Form.  Click on this line item and you will be taken to the probate forms you need. You may not need all of them that appear, but at a minimum you will need these:

Petition to Probate Will in Solemn Form.  This form is filed asking the court to probate the will. You will provide the original will with this form.

Verification.  In this form, you are stating that the information you provided in the Petition above is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.   The Petitioner will be the person selected as Executor by the decedent in the Will.

Acknowledgment of Service and Assent to Probate Instanter.  All the heirs of the deceased must acknowledge that they have received a copy of the will and the petition to probate and agree to allow the probate to go forward.

Order.  The Order will be signed by the Judge asserting that the will is accepted into the record and the executor is qualified and may pursue the next steps to probate the will.

Letters Testamentary.  This is the document you ultimately need to administer the estate.  It authorizes you to carry out the wishes of the decedent as written in the Will.  Banks and other institutions will want to see certified copies of this document.  So, when you first submit your petition, be sure to tell the clerk how many certified copies you want.  The more accounts the decedent had, the more copies you need.  Get at least 5 even if the estate is simple.  They are cheap and it’s better to have too many than not enough.

This is a very cursory review of the main probate forms you would need to file with the Probate Court, assuming there are no extraneous issues. There are some instructions on the probate forms themselves, but if you have any questions you may call the Probate Court of your county and seek assistance.

If you remain confused, you really should contact an Atlanta probate attorney and get the advice you need about probate forms. If you do not, a mishandled administrative issue can surface months or years down the road when it is much more difficult to resolve.

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ScottsdaleunderlightsRight

Lisa Blackstone, Attorney

Now what do you do?

What is probate anyway?  As if you haven’t gone through enough already…the loss…the grief…funeral details…and putting on a smile the best you can. Now you must deal with this thing called PROBATE.

Before letting all your well-intentioned friends describe the horrors of their experience administering an estate, let me give a simple explanation about the process and ease some of your fears.

Technically, probate is simply petitioning the probate court to accept the decedent’s Will as valid.  The process of paying off the debts and distributing the remaining assets of the deceased is the administration process.  Non-lawyers often refer to this administration as “probating the will”.  But, properly, a WILL is “probated” and an ESTATE is “administered”.   Nonetheless, I’ll know what you mean!  Don’t worry about the semantics.

If there is a will, then you simply carry out the wishes as stated in the will.  If there is no will, then you follow the laws of that state.  (Listen to my video on “What Happens To Your Stuff If You Die Without A Will In Georgia“.)

This process can be very simple or very complex depending on the nature of the estate left behind and how well the decedent planned beforehand. These factors, plus your own temperament and state of mind will determine whether you need to hire an Atlanta Probate Attorney to help with the estate. Let me help you with this decision:

What is your state of mind?

Grief and loss are powerful emotional challenges and we all handle them differently. During this time, some people thrive on being as active as possible and immersing themselves in details. Others, would rather not take on more than they already have, delegating to someone else the responsibility of preparing and filing court documents.  Spend some time reflecting on how you really feel.  In the scheme of things, what you will recall later about this should be your family and friends sharing meaningful time together.

How complicated is the estate?

Some people plan ahead and establish contracts that handle their affairs in an easy, straightforward way. Others leave their loved ones with utter chaos to sort through. You as the executor will have to deal with either scenario. But, an attorney can be a great adviser as you go through this process. For example, you may have to file tax returns, prepare deeds, transfer titles, deal with benefit claims, creditor notices, debtor demands and even possibly disgruntled relatives.

Do you expect the heirs to argue about the estate?

If so, you may want to remove yourself from sitting in the middle of it all. When money is at stake, the very worst of human nature tends to surface. I have experienced this in my own family. When my step-father died, my step-siblings had us in a lawyer’s office 24 hours after the funeral service. It was sad.

So, as you can see, “What Is Probate?” may be a simple question. But, the answer depends on some personal evaluations.? You must determine how you want to proceed in a way that is suitable to your mental state, your capabilities at that time and the complexity of the estate.? Even if the answer to “What is Probate” is very simple, it may not be something you are up to right now.

It can be a very simple process that you are fully capable of handling yourself, depending on the factors above. In fact, you can find plenty of free, helpful information on this site that will assist you if you decide to file “pro se”, that is, without an attorney.

If, however, for whatever reasons, you simply would rather not engage in the process, call me. I will help relieve the burden.  I have dealt with probate issues professionally AND personally.  I understand how drained you may be at this time.  I will happily take on this chore letting you focus on your surviving family members and friends.

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