One of the main purposes of this meeting is to not only tell the attorney about the case but to make decisions about hiring the probate attorney.
Bring a list of questions to ask the attorney about his or her experience. Questions may include how long the attorney has practiced in probate law, what type of experience he or she has with the probate court that will handle the deceased’s estate, and what the attorney’s fees will be, as well as how they will be paid.
Payment varies depending on the attorney, but normally, once the estate account is open, fees are normally paid through that source by the personal representative or executor of the estate.
What Does Probate Involve?
Have the attorney walk the client through what to expect in the probate process, from start to finish. Most individuals are not aware of what happens after a will is filed with the probate court, and it helps to clear up any misconceptions or confusion.
One question can even be: is probate necessary. Some state probate laws do not necessarily require estates to go through probate court, but it is a good idea to protect the estate against any problems in the future and other liabilities. Ask the attorney how long he or she expects it to take, which can normally be six months to a year depending on how big the estate is.
What Are the Executor’s Legal Duties?
Normally, the individual meeting with the probate attorney after the loved one has died is the person already named in the will as the executor.
Have the attorney clearly describe what the duties of an executor or administrator are. Duties may include managing the estate property, distributing all funds to beneficiaries, and paying all outstanding financial liabilities of the deceased. Have the attorney explain what a fiduciary duty is and what this means when it comes to the executor’s actions.
How Are Creditors Handled?
Another question that can be helpful at this meeting is how will outstanding bills or financial obligations be handled? Under Georgia probate law, all creditors of an estate are entitled to be paid from the proceeds of the estate. If there are not enough liquid assets available from which to pay these creditors, sometimes the executor will have to make the decision to sell property to pay creditors.
Probate law also has a specific order by which creditors are to be paid. It is important that the executor get this information to appropriately pay creditors before closing the estate to avoid any future liability.
What If Someone Is Mishandling the Estate?
Sometimes it is not the executor who meets with the probate attorney. Certain situations do arise where a concerned beneficiary believes the current executor is mishandling the estate assets. Georgia probate law prohibits this and does offer legal recourse, but it needs to be taken quickly to stop these actions from happening.
When these situations do arise, it is almost always recommended that a probate attorney be hired given the complexity of the issues involved and how quickly things need to happen to protect the estate from further misuse.
What will happen if my loved one has died without a will?
A person who has passed away without a will has died intestate. While those with a will in place will have to endure probate, so will the estates of those who do not have a will in place. During this process, the judge who presides over probate court will make critical decisions such as assigning an executor to resolve the estate.
How Can I Prevent My Will from Being Contested?
The grieving process for a family when they lose a loved one can be difficult enough, but when there are disagreements and disputes over the wishes of the decedent or whether their will is valid, that process can be much more difficult. When a person is preparing their estate plan, there are steps they can take to help prevent these types of disputes. The following is a brief overview. One of our Philadelphia probate attorneys can provide more specific information for your particular situation.