Probate Process

     When a loved one dies the last thing you want to think about is the probating of their assets. We understand that this is an emotional time and that there is a grieving process that you are going through. Because we understand this we will make the probate process as simple and orderly as possible. Below is a general overview of the process involved in probating your loved one’s assets once he or she has died.
     When you contact us about the recent death of your family member we will send you the Decedent’s Estate Organizer. You can also find this handout on our web site at Please bring the completed Decedent’s Estate Organizer along with the required items listed on the first page of the organizer, to your first meeting with one of our attorneys.  The first meeting with the attorney will allow the attorney to review your specific situation and give you recommendations and possible options for proceeding with the probate. The attorney will also give you estimates of the cost and time involved during this first meeting.
     After your initial meeting with the attorney you will receive an Engagement Letter from us. This letter should be read, signed and returned to us along with the retainer payment shortly after you receive it.  Once we receive the signed engagement letter and retainer payment we will draft the Opening Documents to begin the probate process. When the opening documents are ready for you to sign we will schedule a meeting to review the opening documents and you will sign them at that time. This meeting is brief and typically takes 30 minutes.
     The Clerk of Courts in the County of your family member’s death will issue Letters of Administration once the opening documents have been reviewed by the Deputy Clerk and the Circuit Judge. This will be the document that gives the appointed Personal Representative the authority to manage the assets of the decedent. This is also the time when we determine which assets will have to run through the estate and therefore be included in the Inventory of the estate.  We will also be instructing you on how to open an Estate Checking Account. The Estate Checking Account will be used to pay the decedent’s bills and eventually to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.
     Once the Letters of Administration have been issued we will be required to publish a Notice to Creditors in the appropriate publication approved by the Court in the County of the decedent’s death. This Notice to Creditors will give a 90 day period for all creditors of your loved one’s estate to file a Claim with the Clerk of Courts. This is an important part of the probate process and this is why a probate takes at least 6 months from beginning to end and can take as long as one year.
     Frequently the question comes up over how long the family members should wait to open the probate process for their deceased loved one. The answer to that depends on personal circumstances and can vary for each specific situation. Even if you and your family must delay the probate process, we encourage you to deposit the Last Will and Testament of your loved one for safekeeping with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county of your loved one’s death as soon as possible.  The original Last Will and Testament should be delivered to the Courthouse in person by family members and you will have to pay in cash. The fee is about $6.00 depending on the county. It would also be wise to obtain one certified copy of the Original Last Will and Testament at that time. The cost for obtaining one certified copy of the Last Will and Testament can vary by county but is typically one dollar per page and two dollars to certify.
     In closing we are dedicated to helping you administer your loved one’s estate in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible.