Probate court handles estate issues. After a person dies, their estate goes through probate court.
But, in Georgia, probate court serves a range of purposes. Understanding what this court does and how it operates can help you to understand why your estate process may move slowly or face a delay even if you feel the estate is simple.
Besides overseeing probate issues, the probate court also may hear occasional criminal matters, issue marriage licenses and oaths of office, handle state game and fish legal matters, issue gun licenses and oversee elections. Probate matters alone include overseeing the closing of estate matters, adoptions and name changes and holding hearings regarding guardianships. This court is a busy place.
The judge in probate court is an elected position. Every four years the term ends, so the court may change hands. A judge can be as young as 25 years old but must be a resident of the county for at least two years. They also must have at least a high school diploma. In smaller counties, those are the only requirements. Counties with populations of 96,000 or more also require a legal background, including seven years of practicing law and the age limit increases to 30.
The probate court is much more than estate closing. For that reason, it is not uncommon for delays to occur in your case. If the estate matters are especially difficult or complex, it could take quite a while for the case to move through the probate process since you may have to go to court multiple times, and with such a busy docket, the judge may need to go weeks or even months in between the court dates.