WHAT IS PROBATE COURT?
The Probate Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the probate of wills, the administration of estates, the appointment of guardians and conservators for incapacitated adults and minor children, and commitments to involuntary evaluation and treatment for people with mental health, drug or alcohol issues.
The Probate Court also issues both marriage and firearms licenses and performs a number of other administrative duties.
The Bibb County Probate Court is an “Article 6″ court and has expanded jurisdiction. Under Article 6 of Title 15, Chapter 9, Official Code of Georgia, Probate Judges in counties with populations of 96,000 or greater generally must have qualifications equal to those of a Superior Court Judge, including being a licensed attorney for seven years. Article 6 Courts have limited concurrent jurisdiction with Superior Courts and may conduct jury trials in some matters. Appeals in Article 6 Courts are directly to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
The Probate Court of Bibb County will serve the citizens in an effective, efficient, impartial and professional manner to perform the duties assigned to it under the Constitution and laws Georgia.
Chief Clerk: Sherri Lanford
Chief Deputy Clerk Court: Donna Willingham
Chief Deputy Clerk Licensing: Carol King
****CLERKS CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE****
There are a number of different proceedings which may be filed in the Probate court following the death of a Georgia resident or a non-resident owning property in the State of Georgia. Proceedings are filed in the Probate Court of the county of the decedent’s residence in Georgia or in the county where property of a non-resident is located. For each proceeding described, there is a standard form, which the Court will provide to any petitioner.
It is suggested that you discuss the matters of concern with an attorney who practices probate or estate law. An attorney can assist you in determining which proceeding is the most appropriate for your particular situation. Very often, there are other matters (e.g., tax returns, preparation of deeds, title transfers, benefit claims, creditor notices, debtor demands, etc.) which may also make it appropriate or necessary to seek the services of an attorney.
If you proceed without an attorney, it will be your responsibility to determine or select the proceeding appropriate to your situation. The staff of the Probate Court may not make the determination or selection for you, since to do so may constitute the unauthorized practice of law, a misdemeanor crime under Georgia law. Neither the Court nor the County can accept responsibility for incorrect decisions made by the staff, and they have been directed to refrain from giving that kind of advice.
It is also your responsibility to properly complete all forms, which must either be typed or legibly printed. The staff are not permitted to perform clerical tasks for the public. The staff will be able to answer any basic questions about the standard forms and about any deadlines for the filing of proceedings. They will also be able to schedule uncontested hearings and tell you how other matters are scheduled by the Court.
The Probate Judge is required by law to remain impartial to all parties. The Judge must treat every case as though it may become contested. Therefore, the Judge also may not advise you on which proceeding is most appropriate to your case. The Judge is prohibited from discussing the facts or evidence in any contested case with a party unless all parties are present. You should not ask to discuss your case privately with the Judge, and you should understand if the Judge stops any discussion which appears to require the presence of others.
HOW TO PROCEED WHEN A LOVED ONE DIES WITH A WILL
SOLEMN FORM PROBATE
This procedure requires notice to all heirs and becomes binding upon all parties immediately upon entry of the final order. “Heirs” are those persons who would inherit the estate if there were no lawful Will; heirs may or may not be beneficiaries under the Will. The notice requires anyone having a legal cause to object to or contest the alleged Will to file the objection or contest before a certain deadline. The original Will must be filed with the petition, and proof of the proper execution of the will must be provided by either a self-proving affidavit, Interrogatories or Proof of Witness. All heirs must be duly served or must acknowledge service. The Court will appoint a guardian-ad-litem for each minor or incapacitated heir.
COMMON FORM PROBATE
This procedure may be done without notice to heirs but does not become binding for four years after the appointment of the Executor. The requirements of providing the original Will and proof of proper execution are the same as with the Solemn Form Probate. Heirs and others may file an objection or contest at any time up to four years after common form probate.
PROBATE WILL IN SOLEMN FORM WITH LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION WITH WILL ANNEXED
If there is a Will but the named Executor is either unable or unwilling to serve, an Administrator C.T.A (with Will annexed) must be appointed. Any nominated Executor still living must sign a declination, or there must be testimony that the Executor is unable to serve. A majority of the beneficiaries may select the Administrator C.T.A. The Court will appoint a guardian-ad-litem for each minor or incapacitated heir.
WILL FILED NOT FOR PROBATE
If there is no property to pass under the Will, probate is not necessary. However, the Will of the decedent must be filed with the Probate Court. Real estate, unlike joint bank accounts, may not automatically pass to a surviving co-owner. If the only property in the estate is an automobile, title may be transferable through the Tag Agent without probate being necessary. There is no cost to file a Will not for probate.
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ADULT GUARDIANSHIP AND CONSERVATORSHIP
Probate courts have jurisdiction over the appointment and supervision of guardians and conservators of adult persons found to be incapacitated by reason of physical or mental illness to such an extent that the adult is no longer capable of making reasonable and rational decisions concerning his or her person or of managing his or her money and property. Guardians made decisions concerning the person of the Ward, and Conservators manage and make decisions concerning the income and property of the Ward. Conservators must be bonded for the value of all income and personal property of the Ward, and Guardians may be required to post bond. Guardians an incapacitated adult must file annual reports on the physical/mental status of the ward. Conservators must file an inventory of assets, an asset management plan and annual financial accountings, all of which are subject to review or audit by the staff of the probate court. The appointment, supervision, removal and discharge of guardians, conservators and their sureties are within the exclusive, original jurisdiction of the probate courts.
Probate courts have jurisdiction over the appointment and supervision of Conservators for minors. A Conservator may be required if a minor inherits money or personal property not in a trust or under the management of a testamentary conservator, when a minor has received an award of damages in a personal injury lawsuit, or when a minor is the named beneficiary of life insurance or retirement benefits. Conservators must be bonded for the value of all income and personal property of the Minor. Conservators must file an inventory of assets, an asset management plan and annual financial accountings, all of which are subject to review or audit by the staff of the probate court. The appointment, supervision, removal and discharge of conservators for minors and their sureties are within the exclusive, original jurisdiction of the probate courts.
Under certain circumstances, probate courts have jurisdiction over the appointment and supervision of temporary and permanent guardians for minors. A permanent guardian may be appointed for a minor who has no living parents or, after notice to the parents without objection, when the parents fail to properly care for the minor. Permanent guardianship of a minor, though similar, is not the same as legal custody of a minor, which may be granted only by superior or juvenile courts in Georgia.
Temporary guardianship may be granted to a person having physical custody of a minor in need of a guardian. The consent of the natural guardian(s) must be given in writing or the natural guardian(s) must be given legal notice of the proceeding. The probate court may not grant temporary guardianship of a minor over the objection of a natural guardian. The natural guardian(s) of a minor is/are the parents, if living, or the parent(s) having legal custody of the minor if the parents are divorced or were never married. The granting of temporary guardianship of a minor does not permanently terminate the parental rights of the parents. Temporary guardians hold, during the term of the temporary guardianship, all of the powers of a natural guardian, which will include the authority to consent to medical treatment and to enroll the child in school. Temporary guardians may be required to file reports on the personal status and conditions of the minor.
A marriage license may be issued under the following conditions and procedures:
County of Issuance:
If one of the parties is a resident of Georgia, the license can be issued in any county. If neither party is a resident of Georgia, the license must be issued in the county in which the marriage ceremony is to be performed.
A marriage license is issued based upon a written application made by the applicants, verified by oath of the applicants.
As of July 1, 2003, premarital blood tests are no longer required. The State of Georgia, however, recommends that each applicant applying for a marriage license obtain a blood test for sickle cell disease prior to obtaining a marriage license.
The applicants must designate on the application the legal surname that will be used after the marriage. An applicant may choose his or her given surname or his or her surname as changed by order of the superior court, the surname from a previous marriage, the spouse’s surname, or a combination of the spouse’s surname and the applicant’s given or changed surname or surname from a previous marriage.
The parties must be of sound mind, must have no living spouse from an undissolved prior marriage, and must not be related in a degree prohibited by law. If the parties are at least 18 years of age, they may apply without parental consent. If either or both parties are less than 18 years of age, but at least 16 years of age, the parties may apply only with parental consent of the underage party or parties. Both parents must give written consent unless his/her rights have been terminated by an Order of a court.
Persons related by blood or marriage, falling within the following relationships may not be married in Georgia: (1) father and daughter or stepdaughter, (2) mother and son or stepson, (3) brother and sister of the whole blood or half blood, (4) grandparent and grandchild, (5) aunt and nephew, and (6) uncle and niece.
Premarital Education Program:
Under Georgia Law, couples who present to the court at the time of making application a certificate of completion of a qualifying premarital education program shall not be assessed a marriage license fee (other charges may apply). The premarital education shall include at least six hours of instruction involving marital issues, which may include but not be limited to conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities, child and parenting responsibilities, and extended family roles. The premarital education shall be completed within 12 months prior to the application for a marriage license and the couple shall undergo the premarital education together. The premarital education shall be performed by:
A professional counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist who is licensed pursuant to Chapter 10A of Title 43;
A psychiatrist who is licensed as a physician pursuant to Chapter 34 of Title 43;
A psychologist who is licensed pursuant to Chapter 39 of Title 43; or
An active member of the clergy when in the course of his or her service as clergy or his or her designee, including retired clergy, provided that a designee is trained and skilled in premarital education.
The fee for a marriage license is $77.00, which includes the application fee of $61.00 [O.C.G.A. §15-9-60(k)(14)], a fee of $15.00 paid to the State Children’s Trust Fund [O.C.G.A. §15-9-60.1], and a fee of $1.00 for recording the marriage with the Department of Human Resources, Vital Records Division [O.C.G.A. §31-10-21(f)]. In addition, there is a $10.00 charge for the certified copy of the marriage license, which is mailed to the applicants after recording, and a $10.00 fee for the certified copy of the license application for the Social Security Administration. The total for these services is $77.00 payable at the time the application is made.
However, if the couple presents to the court at the time of making the application a certificate of completion of a premarital education program pursuant to Code Section 19-3-30.1, the $40.00 application fee is waived, and the total for all services will then be $37.00, instead of $77.00. In order to qualify for the reduced fee, the premarital education program: must have been completed within 12 months prior to the date of the application; must have been taken by the couple together; must have included not less than six hours of “instruction involving marital issues, which may include but not be limited to conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities, child and parenting responsibilities, and extended family roles”; and must have been provided by (1) a professional counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist licensed in Georgia, (2) a psychiatrist licensed in Georgia, (3) a psychologist licensed in Georgia, or (4) an active member of the clergy when in the course of his or her service as clergy or his or her designee, provided the designee is trained and skilled in premarital education. Couples must present a notarized Certificate of Completion when applying for the marriage licence. The court has a certificate if the provider does not have a form.
If the certified copies are to be mailed to the couple, there will be a mailing fee of $1.00.
Getting Married at the Courthouse:
The judge of the probate court does not perform weddings, except by appointment and after a meeting with the judge about the ceremony.
Magistrates in the Magistrate Court often perform weddings. However, it is best to make an appointment in order to assure that a magistrate is available to perform the wedding. There may be times when there is no judge or magistrate in the courthouse available to perform a wedding. Do not assume that there will be a judge or magistrate to perform your wedding when you come in to obtain the license. The telephone number for the Magistrate Court is 478-621-6505.
WEAPONS CARRY PERMIT INFORMATION
MON – THURS 8:00 am – 4:00 pm FRIDAY 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
WEAPONS CARRY PERMIT FEE IS $78.50
WEAPONS CARRY PERMIT RENEWAL FEE IS $30.00 ***
Cash, Money Order, Credit/Debit card (with fee) only,
Payable to Probate Court of Bibb County
Applicant must be not less than 21 years UNLESS he or she:
Is at least 18 years of age; and
Provides proof that he or she has completed basic training in the armed forces of the United States; and
Provides proof that he or she is actively serving in the armed forces of the United States or has been honorably discharged from such service;
Applicant must be a resident of Bibb County
Applicant who is not a citizen of the United States must provide proof of legal presence in the U.S.
Naturalized citizens of the U.S. must provide naturalization certificate and original INS number;
Applicants who were born outside the United States must bring a certified birth certificate or a passport showing the country of birth
Applicant must provide picture I.D. and proof of residence in Bibb County
Applicant must not currently be on probation for any offense
Applicant must be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal and mental health records check
Applicant must not have any legal disqualification to receipt of the license.
*** WCL Renewal: Any application made prior to expiration of the license or within 30 days after expiration of the license. Fingerprinting is not required only name and identifier check will be performed.
Fees, Costs and Procedure:
Weapons Carry License Application Fee: $78.50
FEE INCLUDES: 42.50 GCIC fingerprinting
30.00 Application Fee
5.00 Background search
1.00 Mailing (Optional)*
WCL Renewal Fee: $30.00***
If an Applicant’s fingerprints are rejected as illegible by the GBI, the applicant must return for reprinting within 90 days.
A fee of $1.00 is included in the cost for a new application. An applicant may pick up the license in person and the cost deducted from the fee.* (Does not apply to a renewal.)
A lost or stolen license may be replaced upon payment of a fee. A sworn statement that the license has been lost or stolen is required; if the license was stolen, the theft must be reported to the law enforcement agency where the theft occurred.
A determination of eligibility can only be made by the Judge of the Probate Court AFTER receipt of the required criminal and mental health records and Immigrant Alien Inquiry, if applicable.
COURT PERSONNEL CANNOT GIVE ADVICE OR OPINIONS CONCERNING YOUR ELIGIBILTY
Records from other Court cannot be corrected by this Court. The applicant is responsible for correction of errors or completed dispositions in their record.
GAPS Fingerprinting Instructions
****GAPS FINGERPRINTING IS AN OPTION, BIBB COUNTY PROBATE COURT PROVIDES THIS SERVICE ALSO FOR WEAPONS CARRY APPLICANTS ONLY****
If you choose to be fingerprinted at a GAPS location in connection with your application for a Georgia Firearms (Concealed Carry) License. You must follow these instructions carefully in order for your use of this alternative method to be successful.
If you register online with GAPS and have your fingerprints taken before making your application, you should come into the Probate Court of Bibb County to complete the application within two business days after your fingerprints are taken at the GAPS location, and you must come in to complete the application within five business days. If you register after making your application, you should proceed to a GAPS location to be fingerprinted within two business days, and you must be fingerprinted within five business days.
You must register with GAPS before going to a GAPS location to be fingerprinted. The steps are as follows:
Log onto www.ga.cogentid.com
Click on “Single Applicant Registrations” under the Registration tab.
Complete the Registration Form by filling in all applicable fields. You must register using your full legal name, and the Registration and your Application must match precisely as to the name and all other fields completed in the Registration. Fields which are marked with an asterisk (*) are required fields. Providing your Social Security Number is voluntary; however, the SSN helps distinguish persons with similar names and dates of birth. If you do not provide your SSN, you must have your Registration ID when you go to a GAPS location to be fingerprinted.
Under the Transaction Information section:
For Reason, select Pistol Permit from the drop-down list. [Hint: typing “p” will take you to the beginning of the selections starting with “p.”] If you are a retired law enforcement officer eligible for waiver of fees under O.C.G.A. §16-11-129(h), select Pistol Permit – Former LE Officer. You will be required to show proof of your eligibility at the GAPS location, and you will be charged only $12.90.
For Payment, select either Credit Card or Money Order. Agency will not be accepted as a selection. If you select Credit Card, another screen will appear on which you will enter your credit card information. If you select Money Order, you must take a money order or a certified check for $52.95 ($40.00 for the FBI and $12.95 for the service) , made payable to Cogent Systems – GAPS to the GAPS location when you go to be fingerprinted.
For ORI/OAC, enter GA011023J.
For Verification Code, enter 011023.
Do not check the box next to “Does another agency make the fitness determination?”
Click Next, check the information for accuracy again, then click Next again to complete the process. The final screen will show your Registration ID number. Either print that page or write down your Registration ID number. You must have that number when you go to a GAPS location to be fingerprinted.
Before logging off of the Web site, go back to the Home page; under “Print Site Locations,” click on Identification Needed for Fingerprinting. You must take appropriate Identification with you to a GAPS location. Click on Print Locations & Hours to locate a convenient GAPS location. You may go to any GAPS location in Georgia. Go to a GAPS location to be fingerprinted.
Go to a GAPS location to be fingerprinted. Call the selected location before going to verify that the site is still a GAPS Print Location and that the published hours are still accurate. Take your Registration ID number with you. Also, you will be required to show proper Identification (see 2.5. above). You will be fingerprinted.
Notify the Probate Court of Bibb County that you have had your fingerprints taken at a GAPS location. Call 478-621-6493 or send an email with your full name, address, and date of birth to [email protected].
It is possible that your fingerprints will be rejected by the FBI or the GBI. Rejections are fairly uncommon for most people, but they do occur. If your fingerprints are rejected by the FBI or GBI, the Probate Court will be notified, and we will notify you. You must be fingerprinted again at no additional cost. You must obtain from us a printout of the rejection information to take with you back to the GAPS location in order to be re-fingerprinted at no cost. You do not have to re-register with GAPS. If the fingerprints are rejected twice, we must submit inked cards.
Locations change at various times, please refer to the GAPS website for a location nearest you.
Application For Weapons Carry License
Sarah S. Harris, Probate Judge
Sherri G. Lanford, Clerk of Court
Donna Willingham, Chief Deputy Clerk – Court Division
Carol King, Chief Deputy Clerk – Licensing Division
Bibb County Probate Court
PO Box 6518
Macon, GA 31208
Office – (478) 621-6494
Fax – (478) 621-6686
Office – (478) 621-6493
Fax – (478) 621-6041