When a resident of Georgia or a non-resident owning property dies, the law prescribes possible steps to take depending on whether the decedent left a will. The procedures available when there is a will were summarized in our previous post.
When there is no will, the process of probate process can be done in several ways.
The first possibility, called Permanent Administration, involves giving notice of a court proceeding to the surviving heirs. A surviving spouse will ordinarily be named to handle the estate, but if they are not available or willing to do this, a majority of the heirs can select another person to do this. The administrators are required to post a bond with the court and reports showing what property the decedent had and what disposition was made of it.
A second procedure, referred to as Temporary Administration can be done without formal notice to the heirs, but requires more supervision of the process by the court, with the administrator unable to do much besides gathering together the decedent's property without a court order.
If the decedent's bills have been paid and there is no disagreement between the heirs as to how to divide the remaining property, then no formal court proceeding is required.
Regardless of whether or not there is a will, the spouse or children of a decedent can be awarded certain property or funds to provide up to a year's support, as long as all interested persons, such as heirs and creditors, receive notice of the court proceeding. A court can also enter an order granting permission to look inside a decedent safe deposit box, which is often done to see if there is a will, insurance policies, or burial wishes stored there.
Sometimes people choose to work with an attorney to make the probate process easier. While this isn't necessary, it can take some of the headache out of a time when family may still be suffering heartache.
Source: Online: http://www.gaprobate.org/loved_one.php; Judicial Branch of Georgia; Gives an overview of what to do when a loved one dies.