If someone dies leaving an original Will in your possession, Georgia law requires that you file the Will with the probate court in the county where the deceased person resided. However, the law does not require you to file the Will for probate. This decision must be made after carefully considering what assets are in the estate. Often, people will have assets placed in the names of more than one person. For instance, a husband and wife may own their house as joint tenants with right of survivorship, or less likely as tenants in common. Likewise, bank accounts may be in joint names with both spouses or a parent and a child. If assets are titled with multiple names on the ownership papers, generally speaking, the assets will belong to the people or persons who live the longest. You rarely need to probate a Will to transfer assets with multiple people’s names on them. Some exceptions to this rule are beyond the scope of this paragraph.
Therefore, the first step you must take in trying to determine whether you should probate a Will is to determine the character of the assets owned by the deceased person. If there are assets only in the name of the deceased person like real estate, bank accounts, or investment accounts without designated beneficiaries; you may well need an Order from the probate court to transfer the property into another person’s name. This can only be accomplished by offering the Will for probate and having an Executor appointed.
There are methods for transferring small bank accounts to the heirs’ names. Also, muniments of title can be filed to transfer real estate into an heir’s name, but usually these documents will not be accepted by a closing attorney if the property is sold. Therefore, you are usually best served by having an Executor appointed and transferring the real estate with an Executor’s Deed.