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Dealing with the passing of a loved one can be difficult, and the thought of going through probate for that person’s estate can seem overwhelming. But it helps to understand the probate process, and it’s beneficial to have a qualified probate attorney at your side.
That’s the time when you should feel free to ask questions—both while selecting a probate attorney and while meeting one for the first time. Whether you’re looking at estate planning, a named executor of a will, or an interested beneficiary, it’s in your best interest to stay as informed as possible about the probate process.
Here are some of the things you should be asking.
When selecting the best probate attorney for your needs, you’re going to want to ask some questions to make sure no one is wasting anyone’s time.
As the client, you are entirely within your rights to ask these questions until you’re satisfied you’ve found the best person to represent you or your estate. Such questions could include:
A qualified probate attorney should be able to answer all of these questions quickly.
This is a specially vital question to ask before your first meeting ever takes place. Not having all the documentation needed for your probate questions could end up delaying the process.
After scheduling your first meeting, ask the attorney what information do you need to bring with you. In most cases, the required information should include the following:
It would be best if you had a basic understanding of what’s going on. Make sure your attorney explains what to expect in the upcoming probate process from start to finish. What needs to be filed by when? Who needs to be present or involved, and when? Perhaps most important, how long does your attorney expect this to take? Depending on the size of the estate, the answer could be anywhere between six months and a year.
You could even go so far as to ask if probate is even necessary. Unfortunately, not all states require it. That said, it’s still a good idea for those who wish to protect their estate against any problems in the future.
Usually, after a loved one has passed on, it’s the named executor of the will who meets with a probate attorney. The attorney should then clearly lay out the executor’s duties, such as managing estate property, paying outstanding bills, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. The attorney should then describe fiduciary duty and what that means for an executor’s actions.
Another good question to ask at your first meeting is how will outstanding financial obligations and bills be paid? Typically, creditors of an estate are entitled to be paid from the estate’s proceeds before any other assets are distributed to beneficiaries. If there are not enough readily available assets available to pay creditors, the executor may have to authorize the sale of the property to cover these obligations.
Many people aren’t aware of this, but probate law outlines a specific order by which creditors are paid. A probate attorney can ensure the executor knows this information so creditors can be handled legally and appropriately before closing the estate.
Not everyone who meets with the probate attorney is the executor. Occasionally, situations arise where a concerned beneficiary or other party suspects the named executor is mishandling the estate’s assets.
When this happens, there’s no doubt you’re going to need an experienced probate attorney guiding you through the complexities and taking swift action. To protect the estate from misuse, things need to move quickly, but you also have to be sure of your suspicions and be able to back them up.
Ask your probate attorney what you need to have prepared ahead of time and what to expect when challenging an executor’s handling of an estate.
It’s difficult enough dealing with everything that goes with the loss of a loved one. A probate attorney is there to make things easier. However, probate law can vary from place to place, and understanding the complete process can be challenging without qualified experts at your side.
The experienced attorneys at Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC are standing by, ready to answer your questions and guide you through the probate process from beginning to end.