Under Georgia probate law, certain heirs of estates with little asset value may file an affidavit to a bank or other financial institution rather than go through the probate process. However, state probate law requires that only family members may file the small estate affidavit. At the time of publication, use of the small estate affidavit is limited to estates worth $10,000 or less.
Georgia Probate Court
If the decedent left a will, the personal representative must determine that the assets total $10,000 or less. If the decedent left a will and the beneficiaries are non-family members, the small estate affidavit option does not apply. Family members may obtain a small estate affidavit from the probate court of the Georgia county in which the decedent resided. After completion and notarization of the affidavit, it should be brought to the financial institution or sent by certified mail.
If a decedent dies intestate, or without a will, and the assets total less than $10,000, Georgia law provides that an heir may petition the court for an order that formal estate administration is unnecessary. Intestate estates are subject to the Georgia laws of intestate succession, based on marital and blood ties. In order for an heir to file the petition, all heirs must agree to the way the assets of the estate are divided. The estate must be debt-free or the assets sufficient to pay any known creditors. These creditors must also consent to the petition.
In an intestate estate, the heir determination worksheet must be submitted along with the small estate affidavit. This determination begins with a surviving spouse, if any, and all surviving children of the decedent, whether born during marriage or out of wedlock or legally adopted. Any deceased children of the decedent must also be included on the list. Next in the line of succession are grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If there are no persons of this blood relationship, heir determination proceeds to surviving parents of the decedent,then siblings, nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews and first cousins.
Some decedents have no close surviving relatives. In these cases, in order to file the small estate affidavit, heirs from remote kinship degrees must be established. Under the Georgia Probate Code, these degrees of kinship "are determined by counting the number of steps in the chain from the claimant tot he closest common ancestor of the claimant and the decedent, and from said ancestor back to the decedent. The sum of the two chains is the degree of kinship. The surviving relatives who have the lowest sum are in the nearest degree and thus inherit the estate equally."
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.