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Georgia Probate Attorney: Think Before You Sign the Acknowledgment of Service and Assent to Probate Instanter

I’ve been practicing as a Georgia probate lawyer for several years, so I get a lot of the same questions on a regular basis.  One question callers often ask is whether they should sign a petition that was sent to them by someone trying to probate a Will.  The question used to throw me for a loop.  “Only the person trying to probate the Will should sign the petition,” I’d say.  “Not a beneficiary.”  But as my experience has grown, I’ve learned to know exactly what the caller means.  She is referring to the Acknowledgment of Service and Assent to Probate Instanter form.

When a deceased person leaves a Last Will and Testament, an interested party usually will file a petition to probate the Will in the probate court in the county where the deceased resided at the time of death.  Typically, the person nominated as executor in the Will does this.  Often, the petitioner will provide a copy of the petition along with the Will to the heirs-at-law of the deceased and ask them to sign a form entitled Acknowledgment of Service and Assent to Probate Instanter.  If all heirs-at-law sign the form, and there are no other issues with the petition or Will identified by the court, the court will grant the petition immediately and appoint the executor nominated in the Will.

When an heir-at-law signs the Acknowledgment form, he does two things: (1) he acknowledges to the court that he received a copy of the petition to probate and the Will and has waived formal service of the petition, and (2) he tells the court that he has no objection to the probate of the Will.  If an heir-at-law has no objection to the petition, then he should not lose anything by signing the Acknowledgment form.  If he does object to the petition, he should not sign the form.

What objection might an heir-at-law have to a petition to probate a Will?  The two most common objections are: (1) the Will is invalid and (2) the executor is not qualified.  There are a variety of circumstances that would support either objection, some of which, such as those supporting a will contest, I discuss elsewhere.  There are other possible objections, but they usually are based on procedural defects, not substantive issues related to the Will itself.

So, if you are asked to sign an Acknowledgment form, ask yourself two questions:

(1)   Have I reviewed the petition and the Will?
(2)   Do I see any problems with the petition or the Will?

Do not sign the Acknowledgment form until you can answer both questions with a “yes.”  If you are unsure whether a problem exists, email me or call me at my Atlanta estate law firm so I can help you determine what to do.

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