Probate and Minor Settlement Update in Georgia
A newly amended law now increases settlements payable to minor individuals in Georgia. Georgia House Bill 620 amends Title 29, wherein minor settlements have been increased from $15,000 to $25,000, and court approval is no longer required for settlements below $25,000. In addition, the new law specifies "gross settlement" and "net settlement" to clarify whether a conservator is necessary and which court handles minor settlements in specific instances. The new bill was passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by Governor Brian Kemp on May 2, 2022.
The Difference between Gross Settlement and Net Settlement
Gross Settlement: The present value of all amounts paid or to be paid in settlement, including cash, costs of litigation, attorney's fees, and any amounts allocated to a structured settlement or other similar financial arrangements. This term includes the total amount paid or paid by all parties involved in the settlement.
Net Settlement: Gross Settlement minus attorney's fees, costs of litigation, legally enforceable liabilities, the present value of amounts to be given to the minor when they turn 18, and the current value of shares to be put into a trust that the probate court or court where the action is pending approves or creates for the benefit of the minor.
Changes to Georgia Minor Settlements
A. If the gross and net settlement is less than $25,000.
A conservator is not required
Court approval is not required.
In this case, the minor’s legal guardian can collect the minor's gross settlement (i.e., the amount paid by an insurance company) and utilize it for the minor's benefit without court approval and going through the process of becoming the court appointed conservator of the child.
B. If the gross settlement is more than $25,000 and the net settlement is less than $25,000
1. A conservator is not required.
2. If no legal action is filed, the proposed settlement must be submitted to the probate court for approval.
3. If legal action is filed, the proposed settlement must be submitted to the court where the lawsuit is filed for approval. The probate court's consent is not necessary.
For example, the gross settlement amount is $40,000, and after deducting $12,000 in attorney's costs and $4,000 in medical liens, the minor will get a net settlement of $24,000. The conservator's appointment is not required, but court permission is required.
C. If the gross settlement is more than $25,000, and the net settlement is more than $25,000
A Conservator is required. The parents/guardian cannot seek court approval of a proposed settlement without becoming the minor's qualified legal conservator.
If no legal action is filed, the conservator must submit the settlement to the probate court for approval.
If legal action is filed, the conservator must submit the settlement to the court where the lawsuit is filed for approval. The probate court's consent in this matter is not required.
For example, the gross settlement amount is $40,000, and after deducting $12,000 in attorney's costs and $1,000 in medical liens, the minor will get a net settlement of $27,000. The appointment of a conservator and court approval is required.
The Benefits of the Amendments
There are positive aspects to the alterations to House Bill 620 in Georgia. The elimination of procedures for court approval and conservatorship in settlements of less than $25,000 frees parents and guardians from the difficulties and burdens associated with the process. It saves a significant amount of time and money, as well as the hassle of paying multiple fees