estatesgeneral-informationThe property of a deceased person (also called the decedent or the deceased) is called the estate. Probate is the legal process that allows the estate to be transferred to the beneficiary(ies) or heir(s). Heirs and beneficiaries may not be the same people. Beneficiaries are those who are named in a will to receive property. Heirs are determined by law at the time of the decedent’s death and are the persons who would inherit from the estate if the decedent had no will.

Critical choices must be made about the various ways to probate the decedent’s estate. If there is a will, some of the choices will be a little bit different than probating an estate without a will.

The goal of the Estate Section of this Website is to offer greater access to the probate court and its processes by providing basic descriptions to some of the usual probate proceedings and links to the Georgia Probate Court Standard Forms as well as some non-standard forms. Caution: These forms may not be applicable in every case.

The Clerks of Rockdale County Probate Court understand that bereavement and handling the estate of a loved one can be stressful and daunting. The Clerks are here to help with the process within the limits allowed by law. However, the probate court staff cannot determine or select the appropriate form for your proceeding because to do so, may constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

Although you do not need an attorney to probate an estate, it may be useful to consult with, or secure an attorney who practices probate or estate law. Sometimes the process of probating an estate can impact other matters, such as tax returns, preparation of deeds and title transfers. An attorney can assist you in determining which proceeding is most appropriate for the estate that you are probating.

Property Distribution to Heirs:

After paying all debts of the estate, the executor/administrator will distribute the property to the decedent’s heirs. For a text version and flowchart for determination of heirs consult the Rules of Inheritance.

Rules of Inheritance

The Rules of Inheritance direct the distribution of the property of a person who dies without a will. The following outline is a summary of the Georgia law that determines who are heirs at law of a decedent. The actual statue may be found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) Section 53-2-1. 

The heirs are: 

  • The spouse if there are no children (and no children who died before the decedent leaving living children of their own or descendants of living children).
  • The spouse and children if there are children, and the children of any child or children who died before the decedent (as well as the deceased child's descendants if any of the deceased child's children also predeceased the decedent).
  • The parents if there is no spouse or children, descendants of deceased children, grandchildren, etc.
  • If no spouse, children, descendants of children, or parents survived by the decedent and the descendants of any deceased brother or sister who predeceased the decedent. 
  • If none of the above, uncles and aunts and descendants of any deceased uncle or aunt, but if all uncles and aunts are deceased, then first cousins share equally, rather than siblings taking their parent's share. 

This information is also available in the form of a flow chart.

No Administration Necessary:

An estate can be handled through a Petition for No Administration Necessary when a decedent has no will, or if the Court deems the will to be invalid. This Petition allows for the distribution of the property of the deceased, as agreed upon by all heirs. This petition can only be done when:

  1. All the debts of the estate have been paid (or if all the creditors consent or fail to object after notice),
  2. All heirs have agreed on how the estate will be divided, and
  3. All heirs have signed an agreement disposing of the estate.