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What do I do when my Mother dies? Who do I call?

Rockville, MD |

My Mother signed a Last Will and Testiment in 1999 with a lawyer who now no longer handles wills. Do I need to contact a different attorney to handle her estate? Is the will still good even though the lawyer is different? Does the attorney handle everything such as closing bank and investment accounts, paying bills and selling furniture, etc., or do I do that as her Personal Representative do these things? I am named in her will, General Power of Attorney, and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Thank you

Attorney Answers 2

  1. Estate administration in probate can seem like a maze if it's not done on a regular basis. There is nothing magical about using the same attorney as drafted the will (although it is a time-honored practice by certain firms to hang onto their clients' wills 'with a death grip' in hopes of getting the probate administration work). The validity of the will stands on its own and has nothing to do with the drafting attorney.

    While the powers of attorney cease to be effective on your mother's passing, you should anticipate working closely with the attorney's office to administer the estate. Usually, but not always, the more the Personal Representative does, the less the expense in attorneys fees.

    This response it is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with either Mr. Duvall or Duvall Law Firm, LLC. The response is only provided as general information in response to the question presented and for the purpose of legal education to the public. The question, as presented, may leave out significant and important facts which, if known, could significantly change the response, make the response useless, or worse, render the response incorrect as applied to the actual facts of the matter. It is recommended that you consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction if you want legal advice upon which you should rely. By using this site, you understand and agree that there is neither an attorney-client relationship nor an expectation of confidentiality between you and the responding attorney. The law changes frequently and varies greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature and may not apply to a particular factual or legal circumstance, regardless of what is described in the question.

  2. My condolences upon the loss of your mother.

    It is a good idea to speak with an attorney for assistance in probating an estate. For small estates, the attorney's involvement may be minimal, but his or her advice may be invaluable especially if there are significant debts, or if there tax issues. They can also help you with the sequence of things. For general information, there are guides to probate put out by the Registers of Wills - if you google "estate administration in Maryland", I think you'll find a link (but it isn't a substitute for speaking with an atttorney.)

    You don't have to go back to the same attorney. Frequently, it may be easier to use the same attorney as he or she may be familiar with the decedent's affairs, assets, debts, and intentions, and the attorney may have already noted any particular issues that might arise with that decedent's estate.

    That said, there is no requirement that you use the same attorney, it is more custom than anything else, if there is no long relationship between your mother and the attorney who did the will.

    The will should still be good, assuming it was executed with all due formality. The probate attorney can handle as much or as little as you want them to do. If you are organized and keep good records, there may be some benefit for you to do more, which would be more economical. You are also in a position to engage other helpers, depending upon the needs. Poor record-keeping, on the other hand, might not save money. In any event, you should discuss with the attorney what different options would be appropriate in your mother's estate, and then make a decision once you have more information.

    Finally, you should be aware that the Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care are effective only during the lifetime of your mother, and with her death, are no longer valid. Good luck!

    Finally, this is not legal advice, which is only provided after execution of an engagement agreement and review of pertinent documents and other information. This kind of public forum is not appropriate to disclose all information necessary to give legal advice, which is only given after review of pertinent documents and information and execution of an engagement agreement.

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