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The death of a loved one is never easy. In addition to the obvious emotional toll, a death has financial effects, some of which are felt immediately, and some of which may not become known for several months or years. A well-crafted estate plan can anticipate these effects, and minimize or eliminate them altogether. The primary task of the probate attorney, therefore, is to carry the estate plan into effect and minimize the financial consequences of death to the greatest extent possible.

It is also important that the probate process be initiated and completed in a timely fashion. Often, family members do not bother to administer the estate of a deceased family member at all, simply reasoning that the property passes to a surviving spouse. Later, upon the death of the spouse, those same family members attempt to sell property, only to discover that they cannot do so due to a break in the chain of title. Then, they must go back and attempt to perform the administration of two estates; depending on the lapse of time, performing the administration of the earlier estate may be difficult if not impossible, and in any event may be both more time consuming and more expensive than if it had been done properly in a timely fashion.

Lastly, it falls to the probate attorney to discover any errors in the estate plan, and determine whether and how the effects of these errors may be reduced.

Through it all, the probate attorney must never lose sight of the fact that, in a very real way, he is there to help ease the suffering of those left behind. Probate law touches us all at the very core of what it means to be human -- the knowledge and realization of our own mortality. The probate attorney must therefore balance the requirements of the law with the practical requirements of his clients, along with a good measure of human compassion.

I provide the following probate services:

  • A review of the decedent's will, trusts, and other aspects of the estate plan, and an assessment of both the intended and the actual anticipated results of the plan;

  • Securing the admission of the decedent's will to probate, if possible, and the appointment of an executor under the will;
  • Determining if a small estate procedure is available for use;
  • Completing a determination of heirship and securing the appointment of an administrator of the estate, if the decedent died intestate;
  • If possible, securing independent administration of the estate, whether testate or intestate;
  • Preparing the inventory of the probate estate, as well as the estate and inheritance tax returns if they are required;
  • Determining the need for post-mortem tax or other planning, including the use of disclaimers or other actions to correct any errors and oversights in the decedent's estate plan;
  • Assisting the family members as necessary in collecting insurance policies and other non-testamentary transfers;
  • Preparing all notices required by law, to both creditors and beneficiaries;
  • Preparing any accountings required by law;
  • Dealing with creditors as part of the probate claims process;
  • Dealing with outside counsel to recover property due to the estate, whether due to personal injury or wrongful death actions, enforcing the decedent's rights under a contract, or otherwise;
  • Representing heirs, beneficiaries, or personal representatives in probate litigation, including will contests and will construction actions;
  • Assisting the personal representative in distributing the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries;
  • Other tasks as required, necessary, or requested.

  • Every probate case is unique, and to a large extent the estate plan (if any) used by the decedent will dictate the procedures that must be employed. The lack of an estate plan, or the use of a poor estate plan, will often force a probate attorney to use less efficient procedures than would be necessary if the decedent had a comprehensive estate plan. In addition, unfolding circumstances may suggest opportunities for correction or improvement. As always, the best way to learn of such opportunities is through consultation and representation by qualified probate counsel.


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