Probate and Estate Administration

“Probate” is the legal process after a person passes away, in which their assets are accumulated, debts are paid, and remaining money is distributed to his/her heirs. An individual named in a will to act as the decedent’s Executor/Executrix (or next of kin when no will can be found) is usually the individual responsible for handling this process (others may handle this under certain circumstances).

Estate administration includes the probate process as well as non-probate transfers of the deceased’s assets (helping specifically named beneficiaries collect on insurance policies). Almost every estate must go through the probate process (unless a living/revocable trust was fully funded, all assets were jointly owned, or beneficiaries are listed on all assets), regardless of whether the deceased left a Will or not. Probate includes: publishing a notice in the local newspaper (so creditors are on notice to file claims against the estate, completing an inventory of all assets and determining their values within three months of opening the Estate, filing an accounting of all debts and expenses, insuring that any creditors have been paid, and making the final distribution of assets to the beneficiaries.

The loss of a family member, especially when unexpected, can be overwhelming. The legal process can seem daunting. We can prepare the necessary documentation, ensure debts are paid, and distribute assets according to the decedent’s wishes. Our office can handle as little or as much as you need. Some clients prefer to be the personal representative of record and only contact our office with specific issues/questions or for review of documents before they are filed with the Register of Wills office to make sure they have been fully completed. Others prefer our office take a more involved role, handling the day-to-day business of the Estate, including contacting heirs, paying bills, etc. Since we charge on an hourly basis, the client is in charge of how involved we become and how much they wish to spend on attorney fees. Please keep in mind that attorney’s fees are legitimate expenses of the estate and typically not payable out of the personal representative’s private funds.

If you are interested in our office helping to open an estate, please gather the following items:

  • The original Will (and any codicils/amendments)
  • Copies of others Wills or Codicils
  • An original death certificate
  • A list of next of kin or other heirs, including names, addresses, and telephone numbers
  • Information regarding assets of the decedent (bank accounts, investments, real estate owned, insurance policies, etc.)

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