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The Estate Lawyer Advantage | Through the Probate Process

The Estate Lawyer Advantage; How the right lawyer can save you time and money (while protecting you) during the probate process.

Your loved one has passed.

He or she knew that you were a trustworthy, reliable, and competent individual. And so you were named as the personal representative or fiduciary to make sure that the estate gets administered.

Of course, your loved one didn’t leave you with a guide as to what to do or how to do it. For now you’re online trying to figure out where to start and look for the right estate lawyer to work with you to get through this process.

How an Estate Lawyer Helps

An estate lawyer helps you in navigating the duties and responsibilities that you have as a representative. We will help you avoid personal liability as a fiduciary that can arise by making an honest mistake. Most importantly, we help make the process move quick with the courts, make sure it’s done right, and ultimately save you in the estate time and money. We make sure that everything gets done in accordance with the prudent investor act, the income and principal accounting act, and that all taxes are paid in taking care of accordingly.

An Outline of the Process

Generally speaking administering a probate follows the following process:

File the Original Will:  first and foremost the original will must be secured and filed in the appropriate county within 10 days of the date of death.

Petition for Administration: With the original will filed, the next step is the filing of the petition. This in effect opens up or begins the court case to help start and conclude the probate process.  All petitions are reviewed by both the clerk of the court and the probate judge in your particular county.

Oath of Personal Representative:  the court wants to make sure that you’re the right personal representative for the job. Therefore your attorney will prepare an oath the personal representative for you which will get signed and executed and turned into the court for review.

Bond Paperwork: In in many cases the court will require a bond on the estate.  A bond is a debt security.  It is amount set by the judge that must be paid and is done to ensure that the estate is handled the right way money is and take it out when it shouldn’t be.

Letters of Administration & Notice of Administration: Hopefully you’ll be able to continue to act as the personal representative throughout the case to get things done. Sometimes you could be unwilling or unable to serve.  The court might need to appoint someone else with full responsibility for the state. Letters of administration are formal documents issued by the court appointing the person who manages the assets and liabilities of the estate.

Taxpayers Identification Number:  remember, we have an estate here which is an entity for purposes of the tax code. This estate may very well be paying estate taxes at the end of the day. Therefore, we have to make sure we get a taxpayer identification number just like we would for an individual or a business with the taxman..

Notify Creditors in Newspapers: now we can’t administer an estate until we make sure that all the creditors or potential creditors are notified that your loved one has passed away. A notice to creditors is done in the newspaper. We are following a very specific process here to make sure that the eyes are dotted in the teaser crossed so that a creditor can’t come back later and say that they didn’t have an opportunity to secure their claim.

Dealing with creditors can be quite a pain. But we have to make sure that all of the creditors issues are resolved so that we can tell the judge that everybody that has a debt has either been paid off or negotiated with so that we can proceed to the next step. This is done by filing a document called a statement regarding creditors with the court.

File Inventory:  think of this is a balance sheet for the deceased. File inventory list the property included in the estate and the value of the property at the time of the death of the decedent. Sometimes we need to address difficult things to value such as non-cash assets like real estate.

For example, consider the case where a decedent dies leaving a bunch of gold coins. You need to get a professional to value the gold coins and assign a number to it so that we can probate the estate.

Notice of Federal Estate Tax Return: remember we have taxes to do on the estate. The court wants to make sure that we’ve done that we need to do, so were going to let the court know by filing a notice in the court file.

Receipts of Assets for Beneficiaries:  at this point were getting into the distribution of the assets of the beneficiaries. We need to file a receipt of the assets of the beneficiaries so that the court knows where everything is going.

Final Accounting:  now the account needs to do a final accounting of the estate. This is a formal document that’s done that explains exactly what is distributed, why, and where.

Petition for Discharge:  now with most everything done need to go back to the court so that the court could review everything and make sure that we are good to go. This is done by filing a petition for discharge. If granted the probate administration is complete and everyone can go on their way.

Consultation with an Estate Lawyer

When setting up a consultation with an estate lawyer make sure to bring the original last will and testament. Most meetings with an estate lawyer will last between 60 and 90 minutes. It’s an opportunity to game plan to set the process that’s going to be appropriate in your particular case. Remember as a personal rep you will work very closely with your estate lawyer. You’ll not only want to pick a qualified estate lawyer but also one that you can live with and work with for the next couple of months as you bring everything to a close.

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