Meeting a Probate Lawyer After the Death of Loved One
Getting the information ready for the initial phone call will help you use your initial consultation in the best way. This initial meeting can set out the timeline and goal; provide a strategy and help you to know the steps you will be taking the Executor or Administrator.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE DECEDENTThe attorney will need the name and last address of the Decedent. This will give enough information to determine what county Probate Court the case will be filed. Next is a brief summary of the assets the decedent has. This will determine if this is a Short Release, Release of Administration, Full Probate. You should have a Certified death Certificate prior to your in office appointment.
The ORIGINAL WILL is needed to file with the Probate Forms to open the estate. If there is no Will and this is a full estate, you will need a Probate Bond. The attorney will ask you the questions and help you complete the Bond Application. In most cases, an experienced attorney is able to recognize if you will be able to get a Probate Bond and if not you will discuss who else could be the Administrator of the estate.
You should also have a list of the Next of Kin:
1. is the decedent married and is the spouse alive - need name and address;
2. Does the decedent have children? Need their names, addresses and if they are minors their date of birth.
3. Did any of the Decedent's children die before him?
4. If no spouse or children, are the decedent's parents alive? Names and addresses.
5. If parents are not alive, then does the decedent have siblings?
GATHER INFORMATION OF ASSETS, DEBTS & ANY PROBLEMS YOU ANTICIPATEA summary of the assets and debt will give the attorney an idea if this is an insolvent estate, which involves more than a normal estate. If there is real estate, have the addresses ready.
Also if there will be any problems with family, you should bring them up.
THE GOAL IS TO HAVE A WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR ATTORNEYThe Attorney needs evidence to be able to walk you through what to expect in a case. By bringing this information, you should be able to open the estate, and go through the stages of a probate.
If this is a Release of Administration, you will be able to get the probate case filed and completed quickly. Having all Next of Kin sign Consents and Waivers will make it go more quickly.
The first stage of the Full Probate Estate, is to open the case and be assigned by the court as the Executor or Administrator.
Next you will review the assets to determine if they have beneficiary designations or will go through Probate. This information will allow you to complete the Inventory which will be filed with the court. Date of Death values will be needed. In most cases the date of death value can be obtained through bank and investment statements. Real Estate and other Personal Property may likely need an appraisal from a qualified person that the court will approve.
The next step is review the Will for instructions on specific bequests. At this stage we are also reviewing the debt, attorney fees, and fiduciary expenses to determine if assets need or should be sold. You will be filing an application for Fiduciary Fees and an Application for Attorney Fees based on the Jurisdiction you are in.
Once the debt and expense have been accounted for and paid, you are making distributions according to the Will or to the State Statute. This will include filing final tax returns and double checking for liens against any real estate. The goal is to wind up the decedent's affairs. You also are making sure there no further court costs to paid.
The final steps to closing the estate is to prepare and file the Final Accounting and Distribution. This will be sent out to the Remaining Beneficiaries. You are hoping to have a Consent and Waiver from each of the Beneficiaries. This will help move this forward more quickly. If there are any questions or issues, the attorney and you may want to meet and speak with everyone. If there objections a court hearing will be had for the Judge to hear the evidence. Once you have an approved Accounting, you will then be able to issue the final distribution checks and close the estate and the fiduciary bank account.
Based on the case, you may move quickly through the stages and in other cases there may be some added tasks due to other factors.
By being prepared for the first meeting, the working relationship will include the strategy, how you will communicate and work, and help keep the costs and fees in check.