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Wills & Probate Resources
How To Prepare To Meet With A Probate Attorney
If you're the executor of an estate, you may want to hire a probate attorney to help you administer the estate. When hiring a probate lawyer, there are several things you can do to prepare for your meeting.
Gather Important Documents
Ask your lawyer what documents you should bring to the first meeting. There are several items that will help the probate attorney better understand the estate. These include:
- The original last will and testament (or a copy, if the original has already been filed with the probate court)
- Copies of any documents from the probate court
- Copies of any living trust documents, if there was a living trust
- Copies of recent financial statements for the deceased, including bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies
- Copies of deeds to any property owned by the deceased
- Copies of any gift tax returns if there were any
- Copies of any bills that are owed, including mortgage and loan statements, credit card statements and condo fees
- A list of the names and addresses of all beneficiaries
You don't need to bring the power of attorney document, revocable will or other advance directives. These documents became invalid upon the person's death.
Make a List of Questions to Ask the Probate Attorney
Meeting with a probate lawyer can be overwhelming and it's easy to forget things during the meeting. Whether it's your first meeting with the probate attorney or your fifth, it helps to bring a list of written questions to each meeting. This ensures you won't forget to address any important topics.
One of the goals of the initial meeting is to decide if you want to hire the probate attorney. With that in mind, make a list of questions that help you know whether the lawyer's right for you. Questions should address the lawyer's experience handling the probate of wills, logistics for working on the estate and legal fees.
Sample questions include:
- How long have you been a probate attorney?
- Do you have experience working with the probate court that will oversee the deceased's estate?
- What kinds of probate-related services do you offer?
- Can you walk me through the steps of the probate process? How long does each step take?
- How much do you charge for your services? Can you give me an estimate of the total bill?
If you take the time to prepare for your meeting with a probate attorney, it helps ensure the meeting is useful and productive. Walking into the meeting with the right documents enables the lawyer to get a complete and accurate picture of the estate. This means he can get to work on the matter immediately. And having a written list of questions guarantees you gather all of the information you need during the meeting.