Probing the Probate Court

IMG_8618By Leslee Champion Hungerford

When most people think “probate” they usually associate it with death, probating a will, and the general confusion that typically accompanies it. While the word “probate” can refer to the act of presenting a will to a court for filing — such as, to “probate” a will, in a more general sense, probate refers to the method by which your estate is administered and processed through the legal system after you die.

Although the main focus of the Probate Court is administering the estates of the deceased (both those with and without a will), the Probate Court offers many other valuable services. In Cobb County, the Probate Court has jurisdiction over the following services:

Probate of Wills

When an individual dies and has a Will, the Will is usually offered for probate by the individual who is named in the Will as the executor. A nominated Executor is not authorized by law to act in accordance with the Will until the Will is proven to the Court to be the Last Will and Testament of the deceased individual; the Court appoints the Executor, and the Executor takes his oath. Even if the Will is not going to be probated, anyone who is in possession of the Will of an individual who has died must bring the Will to the Probate Court for filing. The Will is probated in the Probate Court in the county where the deceased established residency.

Administration of Estates

When an individual has not made a Will, or if the Court deems the Will to be invalid, the Estate can be handled through an Administration. An administrator is appointed to represent the estate. The laws of assent determine the heirs to receive property.

Guardianship or Conservatorship of a Minor

Temporary Guardianship Orders authorize individuals to care for minor children when parents are unable to care for their children, temporarily. A Guardianship Order is often required for a single parent to enter into the military. Guardianship Orders may be required to register the minor child in school and authorize medical treatment for a child.

Permanent Guardianship authorizes an individual to care for a minor child when both parents are deceased. The minor has no natural guardian, testamentary guardian, permanent guardian, or the parental rights of any living parent have been terminated by a court. Termination of parental rights is not the same as a loss of custody. Termination of parental right is permanent; a custody order could be modified at a later date.

An individual must request the Court to be appointed Conservator of property belonging to a minor if the minor child is receiving funds that are more than $15,000 from an inheritance or from a settlement. No petition is necessary for a natural guardian to receive any money or property for their child, if the property is worth less than $15,000.00.

Guardianship or Conservatorship of Incapacitated Adults

The petitioner is seeking the authority to care for the Incapacitated Adult, and/or manage the assets of the incapacitated adult or Ward. A guardian of an Incapacitated Adult has rights and powers and is charged with the responsibility to provide adequately for the support, care, education and well-being of the Ward. The Conservator (guardian of the property) has the duty to exercise ordinary diligence in dealing with the Ward’s property and may be held liable for any loss resulting from a lack of such diligence.

Involuntary Commitments of the Mentally Ill, Alcohol and Drug abusers

A petitioner may request the Court to issue an Order to Apprehend an individual, alleging the individual is in need of a mental evaluation. Upon the order of the Court in Georgia, the sheriff’s deputy will pick the person up and deliver the individual to East Central Regional Hospital for a mental evaluation. To commit someone involuntarily for a mental evaluation, two people have to petition the Court, must have witnessed the behavior of an individual within 48 hours of their hearing date, and must attest to the fact that the said individual is a mentally ill person, an alcoholic or is drug dependent; presents a substantial risk of imminent harm to himself or others; and that this individual needs involuntary treatment.

Issuance of Marriage Licenses

In order to get married in the State of Georgia you must first obtain a marriage license. If either party is a resident of Georgia, they can apply for a marriage license in any county in the State of Georgia. If neither party is a resident of Georgia, they will have to apply in the county they are going to get married in. The license allows for the marriage ceremony to take place in Georgia.

Issuance of Weapons Carry Licenses

To receive a license to carry a weapon an individual must first apply for the Weapons Carry license in the county in which they are domiciled (or reside).  In order to obtain a Weapons Carry license in Georgia, you are required to be photographed, fingerprinted, and must undergo a criminal background investigation by the GBI and FBI.

Miscellaneous services such as Issuance of Fireworks Permits, Recording of Elected Officials’ Oaths and Bonds, and Certificates of Residence

While the Probate Court may appear to be intimidating, I encourage you to give it a deeper look. You may find just the service you need! If you would like a steady legal hand to guide through the probate process, call our office and schedule a consultation.