Working with a Probate Lawyer
Dealing with the passing of a loved one can be challenging, and the prospect of going through probate for their estate can feel overwhelming. However, having a qualified probate attorney by your side can be incredibly beneficial. This is why it’s crucial to ask questions when selecting and meeting with a probate attorney. Whether you’re involved in estate planning, named as an executor, or an interested beneficiary, staying informed about the probate process is in your best interest.
Your Initial Questions
When choosing the right probate attorney for your needs, it’s important to ask questions to ensure that both parties are on the same page. As the client, you have the right to ask these questions until you feel confident that you’ve found the best person to represent you or your estate. Here are some questions you should consider:
- How many years of experience does the attorney have in probate law?
- What is their familiarity with the probate court that will handle the deceased’s estate?
- What are the attorney’s fees, and how do they get paid?
A qualified probate attorney should be able to provide prompt answers to these questions.
1) What Documents Do I Need?
This is a crucial question to ask before your first meeting with a probate attorney. Not having all the necessary documentation can potentially delay the probate process. Before your scheduled appointment, make sure to ask the attorney what information you need to bring along. Typically, you will need the following:
- Death certificate
- Original or filed copy of the deceased’s last will and testament
- Any other relevant documents already filed with the probate court
- Names and addresses of all beneficiaries mentioned in the will
- Copies of all outstanding bills and financial obligations of the deceased
- Copies of property deeds owned by the deceased
- Recent financial statements, including bank accounts, life insurance policies, and investment accounts
2) How Does Probate Work?
It’s essential to have a basic understanding of the probate process. Ask your attorney to explain what to expect from start to finish. Inquire about the necessary filings, deadlines, and the involvement of relevant parties. Additionally, it’s important to discuss the expected duration of the process. Depending on the estate’s size, probate can take anywhere between six months and a year. You could even ask whether probate is necessary in your specific case, as not all states require it. Regardless, it’s advisable for those who wish to safeguard their estate against future problems.
3) What Are an Executor’s Responsibilities?
Typically, the named executor of a will meets with a probate attorney after a loved one’s passing. The attorney should clearly outline the executor’s duties, such as managing estate property, paying outstanding bills, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Furthermore, they should explain the concept of fiduciary duty and how it relates to the actions of an executor.
4) How Are Creditors Handled?
At your first meeting, it’s important to discuss how outstanding financial obligations and bills will be handled. Generally, creditors of an estate have the right to be paid from the estate’s proceeds before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries. If sufficient assets are not readily available, the executor may need to authorize the sale of property to cover these obligations. It’s worth noting that probate law establishes a specific order in which creditors should be paid. A probate attorney can ensure that the executor is aware of this information, allowing for the proper and legal handling of creditors before closing the estate.
5) What Do I Do If Someone Is Mishandling the Estate?
Not everyone meeting with a probate attorney is the executor. In some cases, concerned beneficiaries or other parties may suspect that the named executor is mishandling the estate’s assets. If this situation arises, it’s crucial to have an experienced probate attorney guide you through the complexities and take swift action. To protect the estate from potential misuse, it’s important to act quickly while also ensuring that your suspicions are well-founded and supported. Ask your probate attorney what preparations you need to make and what to expect when challenging the executor’s handling of the estate.
Meet with the Experts
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is undoubtedly challenging. However, a probate attorney can make the process more manageable. Keep in mind that probate laws can vary from place to place, and understanding the complete process can be difficult without the assistance of qualified experts by your side.
The experienced attorneys at Garrity Traina are ready to answer your questions and guide you through the probate process from beginning to end.