What is a Probate Attorney?
Probate attorneys (or probate lawyers) help to settle the affairs of deceased persons’ estates. A probate attorney can be hired by a personal representative or executor after a person has died, or they can engage with the family early on, helping to plan the estate, write a will and testament, and ensure a smooth process for those left to settle the loved one’s affairs.
Our Probate Services
The probate attorneys at Stevens & Day, LLP are experienced with the myriad of legal proceedings that are guided by Maine’s Probate Code and typically are resolved before Maine’s Probate Courts. For a consultation regarding your probate matter, contact partner Avery Day at 207-430-3288 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our probate attorneys can assist you with the following:
A personalized estate plan is key to mapping out the future before and after you have passed. For example, an estate plan can ensure that your health care wishes are expressed and followed, your assets are managed appropriately when you can no longer do this yourself, your property is disposed of according to your wishes and in a manner that achieves maximum tax savings, and your children are placed with the appropriate guardians. It can also include plans in the event of your or a loved one’s disability.
Our estate planning service often consists of preparing a will, a durable financial power of attorney, and an advance health care directive. For estates where more specialized planning is involved, we can also prepare trusts and assist with matters that may need to be addressed during your lifetime, such as transferring real estate, retitling other assets, placing family properties into LLCs, or updating beneficiary designations for non-probate assets.
When a family loses a loved one, there is a seemingly endless list of issues that need to be taken care of to settle the affairs of those who just passed. Oftentimes, families are confronted with issues they have never dealt with before, such as obtaining a death certificate, filing a claim for life insurance, or dealing with the Social Security Administration. These are emotional times, and we are happy to be there to help guide clients through the administrative matters they are confronted with.
Whether a loved one died with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate), the probate process is largely the the same. While each estate is different and is usually confronted with its own particular issues, the broad strokes of the process usually follows a familiar pattern:
- Our probate attorneys work with clients to gather the information required to initiate the probate process and to have a Personal Representative of the estate appointed (if you are charged with settling a loved one’s affairs, this checklist can help you get started).
- From there, we assist with providing notice to heirs and devisees as well as inventorying and appraising the value of assets in the estate.
- At that point, we can assist with the sale of assets, if required, and the payment of claims, debts, and taxes.
- Finally, distributions can be made and the probate administration process can be wrapped up.
For smaller estates, some of the time and expense of administration can be avoided through the use of a small estate affidavit, when appropriate.
As noted above, each estate presents its own challenges and our probate attorneys have experience in working through these issues as well. These challenges may include addressing the various allowances provided under the Probate Code, calculating and satisfying elective shares, which can be claimed by spouses, and/or responding to creditor claims. In cases where someone has died in another state but has property in Maine, we can work with counsel in other states to deal with these Maine assets through the ancillary probate process.
While families are often able to work through the issues they are confronted with during the probate administration process, sometimes genuine disputes cannot be settled by agreement. In those instances, parties may have to resort to probate litigation. We can assist in those matters, whether they relate to the validity of a will, the conduct of a Personal Representative, or a dispute regarding the distribution of non-probate assets between beneficiaries.
In addition to providing guidance regarding administering estates, we also assist clients in administering trusts. Trusts are established with many different purposes in mind and we can work with trustees as they fulfill their fiduciary roles to achieve these purposes. This includes advising trustees of their powers and duties, assisting with interpreting trust instruments, amending trust instruments, and terminating trusts.
As with estates, disagreements can arise related to the administration of trusts. We are ready to assist clients with these matters when disagreements turn into litigation.
Other Probate-related Matters
While the typical conception of a probate practice involves trusts and estates, our full probate practice also includes assisting clients with other matters covered under the Probate Code. This includes assisting with seeking to establish conservatorships and guardianships, when these protective proceedings are necessary, as well as advising these fiduciaries as to their duties. Our probate attorneys can also assist with the legal process of name changes and adoptions, which both fall under the Probate Code.