Settling Small Estates (GA)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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Full probate is not required for Georgia estates if there is no will, or if the only assets are held by financial institutions with less than $15K on deposit (each). Regardless of estate size, probate is not required if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

Simplified Procedure

You can use a simplified probate procedure in GA if:

  • There is no will
  • No executor has been appointed
  • All heirs agree on a distribution plan for the estate (heirs are determined by family relationship; see GA Code § 53-2-1)
  • Any known creditors agree to the plan

In Georgia, each county has a local probate court. If you are using EstateExec and you enter the decedent's county of legal residence on the Decedent tab, you will see a direct link to the appropriate court here, usually with more detailed information about the court than the limited search link in the preceding sentence.

To use a simplified procedure, an heir must submit a Petition for Order Declaring No Administration is Necessary (Form GPCSF-9) to the appropriate court. The petition must contain:

  • Name and address of the decedent
  • Name, address, and ages of the heirs
  • A copy of the death certificate
  • A statement that there are no creditors, or that any known creditors have consented to this plan or will be sent notice of this petition (see GA Code § 53-11-3 for instructions)
  • A detailed list of estate assets
  • A notarized distribution plan signed by all the heirs

If the estate contains any property subject to a lien (such as a mortgage), then the consent of the lien-holder must be included as well, or the lien-holder must be notified of the petition as per above.

Once the court approves a petition, it will issue orders to effect the submitted distribution plan.

See GA Code § 53-2-40 for statute details.

Payment of Deposit

If a financial institution (such as a bank) holds up to $15K for a decedent, the immediate family members (or the funeral home) can apply to have those funds directly distributed to themselves.

If these are the only assets of the estate, the estate may not require any probate-related proceedings at all. When determining estate contents, do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with right of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

Distribution of the funds held by the financial institution is mandated as follows:

  • To any surviving spouse
  • If no surviving spouse, to the children pro rata
  • If no surviving spouse or children, then to the father and mother pro rata
  • If none of the above exist, then to the siblings of the decedent pro rata

If none of those people make a claim within 90 days of the decedent's death, then any unpaid creditors for funeral expenses or expenses related to the last illness can apply for the funds instead.

See GA Code § 7-1-239.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any GA Family Entitlements, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.

Even if the estate does not go through probate, you are still entitled to Executor Compensation in GA, and this compensation also has priority over most estate debts.

Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so you should arrange to have all debts resolved before distributing assets. In fact, if any creditor objects to a Petition for Order Declaring No Administration is Necessary, the judge will not allow the simplified probate procedure to move forward. Consequently, any submitted distribution plan should include details on how all debts will be resolved. After submitting a Petition for Order Declaring No Administration is Necessary, any known creditor who has not already agreed to the petition should be notified of the petition (see GA Code § 53-11-3).

When using this simplified procedure, it is NOT necessary to publish a notice to creditors as described in Finding Estate Debts in GA, but doing so can better protect the heirs from previously unknown creditors, who would normally have the right to sue heirs for the value of any distributions received.

If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.

See also Making Distributions.

No Small Estate Affidavit

Many people ask about using a small estate affidavit, but Georgia does not support such an affidavit. You must use one of the above methods (or full probate) for handling small estates in Georgia.

Additional Information

If your estate doesn't qualify for a small estate approach, or you're simply interested in exploring standard probate, take a look at Probate in GA.

And since probate is just the court-supervised subset of winding up a person's affairs after death, you'll probably want to check out our Complete Guide to Estate Settlement in GA.

Finally, in case you're interested, details about handling small estates in other states can be found here:

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