By: Denise Tuttle
Imagine you have just lost a dear loved one. Your thoughts are jumbled and your world has been turned upside down. You have an appointment scheduled to meet an attorney for the first time to discuss where to go from here. You may be anxious about this appointment, despite having enough already to be anxious about.
Your voice may quiver, or you may cry as the discussion unfolds, and that’s okay. We’ve lost loved ones too and understand how overwhelming this can be. Our goal is to make the process you are about to go through to administer your loved one’s estate as easy and pain free as possible. We will help to break it down into manageable steps as we work toward the end goal of finalizing the estate or trust.
What should you bring with you to this first meeting? There are some items that will be needed right away. Having them with you at the first meeting will save the back and forth of mailing or making another trip. The attorney will want the original will if there is one and you have it. See: Do I Need A Will? If the original will is on file with the court, then a copy will be needed. Additionally, your attorney will need a certified copy of the death certificate. Oftentimes the funeral home will order these for you, but if not, they may be obtained through the town clerk in the town in which your loved one died. Another item your attorney will need is a list of the heirs and beneficiaries, with contact information for each. The contact information should at least include their mailing address, but it is often helpful to have an email address and telephone number as well. We will also need dates of birth for minor children.
Your attorney will need to know the approximate value of the assets that were in your loved one’s sole name. Any asset jointly held will not be part of the probate estate. For example, if there is real estate, a copy of the real estate tax bill will be helpful. This list of assets can be an estimate based upon your best knowledge, but if you have the exact list and date of death values of the assets of the estate, please bring that along. This information will be needed to complete the court forms and will also be necessary to determine the fees that the court will charge for opening the estate.
Finally, it will be helpful to know if there are debts or ongoing liabilities such as a mortgage on real estate, an automobile loan, lease or the like.
This information will all help to begin painting the picture for your attorney of the scope of the estate and the work involved, which will also help the attorney to give you the best estimate of time and costs that you can anticipate. Being prepared will save time and money for you as you will not have to spend your appointment time with your attorney going over these items that he/she will need, but can instead review how the process will work and what to expect. Nevertheless, do not be concerned if you do not have every piece of information for the first meeting. Administering an estate is a process that we can work through together.