Meeting with a probate attorney often signifies the start of a significant, and often stressful, period of settling a deceased person’s estate. Not only are you grieving the loss of a loved one, but you may also be unsure of what to expect. To streamline the probate process, preparation is key. Knowing what to bring to your first meeting can make all the difference. 

What Do I Need to Bring to My First Meeting With a Probate Attorney?

The Will and any Codicils 

The foundation of the probate process is locating the will and any attached codicils (amendments to the will), which outline the deceased’s last wishes regarding their assets. If a will exists, bring the original, notarized copy to your first meeting. If there are any codicils, bring those as well. Additionally, if there’s a reason to believe the will may be contested, be sure to inform your attorney. If you can’t find the will or if you do not believe your loved one had a will, that’s ok, you can still move forward with probate.   

Death Certificate 

A certified copy of the death certificate verifies the deceased’s death. This is needed to initiate the probate process. This document includes crucial information such as date and place of death. To obtain an official copy of your loved one’s death certificate, you can visit your local health department, the Office of Vital Records in Nashville, the funeral home, or if you are unable to do so in person, you can order the certificate by mail or online through VitalChek. 

Inventory of the Estate 

Your probate attorney will need to understand the scope of the estate. To assist with this, prepare an inventory list of the deceased’s assets. This might include real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, vehicles, and personal belongings. If you happen to know the estimated value of any of these assets, be sure to note it on the inventory list. 

List of Debts 

Equally important is the list of the deceased’s outstanding liabilities. This may include mortgages, loans, credit card debt, and medical bills. An accurate account of these obligations is necessary to satisfy them from the estate during the creditor period that happens early on in the probate process. 

Life Insurance Policies 

If the deceased held any life insurance policies, bring the policy documents or details to the meeting. These proceeds typically bypass probate and go directly to the named beneficiaries, but these documents can help the attorney understand the overall financial picture. 

Relevant Documents for Named Beneficiaries 

The probate attorney will need information about the beneficiaries named in the will, including their full names, contact information, and relationships to the deceased. If there are trusts involved, bring copies of those documents as well. 

Tax Returns 

Recent tax returns, usually from the past few years, can provide a broader picture of the deceased’s financial situation. This information can be essential in some probate situations. 

Legal Documents 

If the decedent had any other relevant legal documents, such as prenuptial agreements, divorce decrees, or property deeds, bring those to your first meeting as well. These documents can significantly impact the distribution of the estate. If these are omitted, this can cause serious problems down the line.

Your Questions 

Lastly, bring a list of your questions and concerns that you may have about the probate process.  Your first meeting is an excellent opportunity to address these issues, so you understand what lies ahead. At Crow Estate Planning and Probate, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Our team wants to make sure our clients fully understand the legal process when it comes to managing their loved one’s estate, so we will always take the time to answer any questions or provide additional clarity as needed. 

The probate process can be complicated and emotionally taxing. However, with proper preparation, your first meeting with a probate attorney can set you up for success and help create a smoother resolution to settling the estate. Remember, this list is just preliminary. Our team will guide you through specific details relevant to your situation, making the ultimate path clearer and more manageable.  

If you are facing probate following the passing of a loved one, we are here to walk alongside you and provide guidance during this difficult time. If this is something you are facing, we are here to provide guidance during this difficult time. On November 4th, I am leading a free webinar explaining the probate process in Tennessee and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also give our team at Crow Estate Planning and Probate a call today at 615-558-8002 to schedule a free consultation.