Testators and Testate Estates

estateswillsA testator is a person who makes a will. An individual who dies and who has a will is said to have died testate. Upon the death of the testator, the will must be filed in the Probate Court in the county where the testator was domiciled at the time of his/her death. If the testator was not domiciled in Georgia at the time of his/her death, the will may be filed in any county in Georgia where the testator owned property.

Will Filed Only, Not Probated

Filing a will is different from probating a will. Although the will must be filed upon the death of a testator, it is not required that the will be probated. The process of probating a will is the formal process by which the Probate Court determines a document has been proved to be the last will and testament of the decedent and officially appoints the executor or some other person to handle the distribution of the decedent's property. If there is no property to pass under the will, probate is not necessary. However, the will of a decedent must be filed in the Probate Court. 

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. Wills that are filed not for probate are scanned and stamp-filed to be made a part of the official record. There is no fee for filing the will not for probate.

Filing of Will Before Death for Safekeeping

A testator may file his/her will in the office of the judge of the probate court for safe keeping in the county of the testator’s residence. The testator must complete an information sheet and the will is then placed in a sealed envelope and filed in a fire-proof cabinet. The file must remain confidential, and no person other than the testator, the testator’s legal representative, or the testator’s attorney in fact shall have access to the file prior to the death of the testator. There is a $15.oo storage fee for filing a will for safekeeping.

Petition to Enter Safety Deposit Box

This proceeding is usually used when there is thought to be a will in a safety deposit box. The Order authorizes a bank to open and examine the contents of the box in the presence of the petitioner. If a will is found, the bank must deliver it directly to the probate court.