Probate & Administration of Estates
A probate court is a specialized court that deals with matters of probate, which is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will, and the administration of estates.
Probate courts administer proper distribution of the assets of a decedent (one who has died), adjudicates the validity of wills, enforces the provisions of a valid will (by issuing the grant of probate), prevents malfeasance by executors and administrators of estates, and provides for the equitable distribution of the assets of persons who die intestate (without a valid will), such as by granting a grant of administration giving judicial approval to the personal representative to administer matters of the estate.
In contested matters, a probate court examines the authenticity of a will and decides who is to receive the deceased person's property. In a case of an intestacy, the court determines who is to receive the deceased's property under the law of its jurisdiction. The probate court will then oversee the process of distributing the deceased’s assets to the proper beneficiaries. In some jurisdictions, such courts are also referred to as orphans courts, or courts of ordinary.
Probate Courts in Georgia
The probate judge is an elected Constitutional County Officer with a four-year term of office. In all counties having a population less than 96,000, there is no requirement that the probate judge be an attorney. All probate judges are required to obtain not less than 12 hours of continuing judicial education each calendar year while serving in the office. Each probate judge is also a member of the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia, created in 1988 to further the improvement of the probate courts and the administration of justice.
Morgan County's Probate Court performs other judicial and ministerial functions, including, but not limited to:
- Maintenance and upkeep of all public records and minutes of proceedings in the court
- Acceptance and maintenance of funds, as custodian, for missing heirs and minors without conservators
- Issuance of marriage licenses
- Issuance of firearms permits
- Issuance of residency certificates
- Issuance of licenses to conduct business by veterans
- Issuance of permits to perform public fireworks displays
- Filling vacancies in certain public offices; administering oaths to public officials
- Acceptance, approval and recording of bonds of certain public officials
- Issuance of warrants and holding of commitment hearings
Probate Court also may hear cases involving the removal of obstructions from roads. Together with the Sheriff and Clerk of Superior Court, the probate judge designates the official legal organ (the newspaper in which legal advertisements are published) of the county. The probate judge hears all traffic and game and fish violation cases.