Probate & Estate Administration Process
Estate Settlement Consultation
Step One: Schedule an Initial Consultation
When a loved one passes away, it is important that the Personal Representative or Trustee seek legal counsel for guidance through the settlement process. Your first step as a Personal Representative or Trustee is to contact our office and schedule an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.
Step Two: Complete the Estate Settlement Questionnaire
You will receive a welcome packet from our office prior to your scheduled consultation. Included in this packet is a Client Intake Form and a Document Checklist. These forms are designed to help you gather important information that is necessary for us to understand the estate and settlement. Please take the time to review and complete the forms and bring them to to your initial consultation.
Please provide us with copies of any current Wills, Trusts, or asset information that your loved one had at his or her death.
Step Three: Initial Consultation "Gathering the Estate"
Properly settling an estate requires a comprehensive understanding of the deceased’s estate plan (or lack thereof) in addition to the type, value, and location of the assets owned. It is crucial to understand the distribution requirements. During the initial meeting, we will meet with the named personal representative and/or trustee with or without other family members to review the decedent’s estate planning instruments and identify current assets. We will provide a detailed overview of the estate settlement process, its requirements and answer any questions you may have.
What to Bring to Your Initial Consultation
- Your completed Client Intake Form. Please fill this form out to the best of your ability.
- A list of questions you have or that you think of while filling out the Client Intake Form.
- Any existing wills, trusts or estate planning instruments
- An original Death Certificate (5 if possible)
- The decedent’s most recent income tax returns, if available
- Financial Statements and ownership paperwork, including:
- Cash and investment account statements
- Retirement plan statements
- Life Insurance and annuity statements
- Copies of stocks or bonds
- Business interests
- Real property deeds (Warranty or Quit Claim)
What to Expect
- Your initial consultation will last approximately two hours. This is a no obligation meeting and allows us to get a complete picture of your situation and determine the appropriate estate settlement strategy.
- We will ask detailed, sometimes personal questions about the decedent’s priorities, goals, family, finances, and assets. The answers to these questions will assist us in recommending the proper estate settlement strategy.
- We will discuss the Estate Settlement process, state law requirements, and income and estate tax consequences.
- We will take the time to answer any questions you may have about the estate plan and the settlement process.
- We will review our fees and processes. We cannot determine exact timelines or final costs because estate settlement has a significant degree of variability.
Step Four: "Opening the Estate"
Once you have engaged us for representation, we will prepare and explain the necessary documents the Personal Representative and/or Trustee needs in order to acquire the legal authority to act as fiduciary. For a probate estate, this includes legal pleadings. For a non-probate estate, this includes documentation that complies with the decedent’s trust requirements. Upon the execution and acceptance of proper documents the Personal Representative or Trustee is authorized to provide the required notices to all interested parties, which may include beneficiaries, financial institutions and government agencies.
Step Five: "Managing the Estate"
Our attorneys may meet with the family’s accountant, financial advisor and/or attorney to create a plan for the allocation, distribution, or division of the assets. The plan must adhere to the terms of the estate planning instructions, while balancing the Personal Representative or Trustee’s fiduciary objectives, the family’s desires, and any available tax advantages.
Step Six: "Closing the Estate"
We will work closely with the Personal Representative or Trustee to review and confirm all aspects of the settlement plan. We will also provide the Personal Representative or Trustee with an administration binder to record each step of the process as it is successfully completed.