Estate Planning and Probate

Estate Planning and Probate

Our Firm has experience in:

Estate Planning:

  • Wills - Simple and Complex
  • Trusts
  • Healthcare Directives
  • Powers of Attorney
Probate:
  • Probate of Wills
  • Administration of Intestate Estates (without a Will)
Guardianships​
Conservatorships

WHAT IS PROBATE?

Simply put, probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies to settle their final affairs and transfer their property either to their beneficiaries as their last will and testament directs (referred to as a "testate" estate) or to their heirs at law as state law directs (referred to as and "intestate estate). It involves the following basic items:
  • proving that the person's will is valid
  • identifying the person's property
  • paying debts and taxes, and
  • distributing the remaining property.
While the steps in both a testate and an intestate estate are similar, the form of the process is a little different. Typically the attorney will prepare the following documents:
  1. Petition to Open Estate (intestate) or to Probate the Will
  2. Depending on the county, a Probate worksheet and Fiduciary Affidavit may be required.
  3. Order Opening the Estate or Granting Probate of the Will and Granting Letters to the administrator (intestate) or executor (testate).
  4. Oath of Administrator/ Executor
  5. Letters Testamentary or of Administration - these are the documents that give the administrator or executory the power to act on behalf of the Estate.
  6. Affidavit of Notice to Creditors - it must be filed, by statute, prior to the publication for creditors
  7. Notice to Creditors for publishing in paper (must run in the paper once a week for 3 consecutive weeks. The Estate cannot be closed for at least the next 90 days
  8. Determination of Heirs - typically of concern only in intestate matters - a Summons to Unknown Heirs must also be published in the newspaper.
  9. A hearing is held to determine the heirs
  10. Petition to Close
  11. Order to Close, disburse and pay attorney fees
The individual circumstances of the proceeding will dictate the amount of time required, but it can be a very lengthy proceeding.

Their are alternatives to probate, including, with proper estate planning, the avoidance of probate. Our firm can help you choose between the alternatives after considering your situation. We utilize a variety of estate planning techniques including wills, which direct how you want your estate distributed upon your death; trusts (both revocable and irrevocable) which holds your assets for the safekeeping of you and your loved ones; joint tenancies, which transfers title to your property "by operation of law" upon your death; life estates, which gives you the present interest in your property and leaves a remainder interest as you direct; transfers on death; scheduled gifting; and others. We also believe that a complete estate plan includes a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive, so that others can make important decisions about your property and your health if you can't.​