10 Practice Tips for Handling Complex Probate

It is challenging but not impossible, and there is a lot to be stated for taking a methodical technique to manage complicated probate.

Here are ten practice guidelines for handling the legal aspects of administering and estate and trusts of persons who passed away leaving numerous assets, substantial financial obligation, feuding families, or other making complex elements for their trustees and individual representatives to arrange out. Ripped from 30 years of probate and trust law experience, these suggestions apply legal concepts and procedures, in addition to technology, to assist the legal representative in streamlining and managing probate and trust administration in these severe cases. For more information contact Steven F. Bliss he is a highly experienced Temecula probate attorney down in Temecula Ca.

1. Determine the Customer

This is pretty simple. One customer at a time is all an attorney can generally deal with. All at once, representing two or more clients creates its issues. Nevertheless, when somebody dies, it is typical for several loved ones to wish to meet the lawyer. This threatens. The attorney-client advantage might be lost by meeting in the company of individuals who end up not to be customers. The soon-to-be-non-clients might impart secret information to the attorney, which later develops a conflict of interest. For that reason, the lawyer should figure out who will be the customer before the first meeting, and, ideally, throughout the very first telephone call or e-mail.

The preferred client is the one who:

This accurate evaluation is best made throughout the initial conference or soon afterward. Often, potential customers do not pass this test. If they do not, it is best to refer them to the Attorney Referral Service.

Some lawyers seem to forget that in some states, such as Florida, the lawyer represents the PR and not the “estate,” not the recipients, not the financial institutions, and not any other interested persons. Recipients often misconstrue this and need various letters advising them that they should get their different counsel because the PR’s attorney represents just the PR. It is best to motivate beneficiaries to get different counsel early in the probate procedure. It will make the task of the PR’s attorney a lot easier since the beneficiary’s lawyer will explain the procedure to the beneficiary. It is easier to keep a discovered lawyer informed than to keep a non-lawyer recipient notified.

An engagement letter or charge contract should be participated in between the lawyer and PR validating the terms of engagement, signed by the beneficiaries, and filed in the court of probate file.

2. Establish Client’s Base of Authority

In complex cases, clients are regularly distressed to get to work. There are assets to handle, problems to deal with, bills to pay, and enemies to defend or attack. The attorney should remind the customer of the need for authority. This means being designated PR by the court of probate. Acting before the appointment is fraught with threat. Submitting a petition for probate administration must be the very first action the attorney takes to establish the customer’s base of authority.

It may also be required to be selected PR by a court of probate in other states where the decedent owned real property. If the decedent’s domicile was Florida, then the Florida probate proceeding ought to be filed first, being the domiciliary proceeding. If the decedent’s residence was not Florida, a Florida ancillary probate case needs to be submitted. Probate is inefficient as to realty situated in other states (probate is an in rapid eye movement case).

Besides, developing the customer’s base of authority might need presuming the position of follower trustee of several living trusts,

or even land trusts. In complicated cases, this might need filing a petition for the visit of follower trustee with the court.

3. Start the Clocks

There are three clocks to begin right away after the court goes into the order admitting the will to probate and selecting the PR:

Clock # 1: Publish notification to lenders. In numerous states, such as Florida, this gets the lender declares period running for financial institutions who are not reasonably ascertainable.

Clock # 2: Serve notification of administration on all recipients named in the will and on all persons who would take if that will and all wills stopped working (intestate successors and beneficiaries of previous wills). In numerous states, this gets the period running for will contests and PR appointment contests.

Clock # 3: Serve notification to financial institutions on all reasonably ascertainable creditors. This gets the time duration running for the most frustrating creditors: those who are reasonably ascertainable. A thorough search for these persons may take much effort, including reviewing savings account signs up returning a year. (See David T. Smith and Robert M. Winick, Known or Ascertainable Estate Creditors: The Pope Choice, 62 Fla. Bar J. 66 (Oct. 1988.) Service by FedEx, UPS, etc., is the author’s favored method of service since it is reputable, it fasts, and it offers proof of delivery the next day. Make sure to submit evidence of service with the clerk of court.

Why begin the clocks ASAP? The PR must identify the interested individuals in the estate as soon as possible so that the PR can get authorization of interested individuals on significant decisions that arise in complicated probate very early on. This suggests determining who are the creditors and recipients of the estate upfront in the probate process. This minimizes the likelihood of an interested individual attacking an act of the PR taken before the PR determined all interested persons.

4. Prepare the Pleadings Index

Like the A-Team, the legal representative handling complex probate requires a good plan. That implies making checklists, great deals of them. The first and most important list is the pleadings index. Every probate has two sets of pleadings: those that were filed and those that will be submitted.

The pleadings index lists them all, however, separates them, with those already filed on the leading and those to be submitted on the bottom. As pleadings are filed, they move from the bottom of the list to the top. The pleadings index consists of the case caption as the top of the page, similar to a court pleading, so it is a useful place from which to copy the caption when preparing.

It also consists of a list of substantial dates: 60 days for the stock, four months for a declaration concerning lenders, one year for the petition for discharge.

Thus, the pleadings index is a one-stop source to view the case status at a glance.

5. Put Together the Team

The attorney handling complex probate requires assistance, great deals of aid. Here is a starter:

u2022 Financial: CPA, tax attorney, bank;

It is smart early in law practice to produce a list of experts to call upon in time of need: a recommendation list. Being able to hire somebody you understand will allow you to request favors: quick response, answers to quick questions, whether your methods make good sense.

Referral lists need to include more than contact info: area of practice, date, who referred, case names, background. This will include context to your recommendation list.

When you fulfill legal representatives from other counties and states, learn what they do, and add them to your list for future recommendation. It might be ten years before you need them; however, when you do, they may make all the distinction in your case.

Be sure to keep your group notified. Do not leave anybody out of the loop. When sending out e-mails, include your whole team. Set up a circulation list in Outlook Contacts so that one click adds all their e-mail addresses.

Do not forget to get in touch with your team. They understand more about their fields than you do; that is why they are on your team. If they do not change players, send your employee engagement letters needing them to keep your interactions private and within the attorney-client and work product privileges.

6. Answer Before You Are Asked

As a fiduciary, the PR must provide an interested person with information about the estate and its administration on sensible demand in composing. This means the PR can await recipients and financial institutions to ask for information before providing it.

There is a fundamental reality in complicated probate: you cannot have many buddies. Relationships are based upon trust and credibility. You develop this with recipients and financial institutions by providing info: great deals of info, timely details, precise details, reliable info, useful info.

The PR ought to imitate the paper: be the very first to inform the readers what is brand-new, what is intriguing, what is essential.

Another suggestion: papers do not make predictions. Neither must the PR. A beneficiary who was given a quote for his share never remembers it was an estimate and subject to taxes and administration costs.

Keep recipients notified. Response concerns before they are asked do not speculate.

7. Prepare Routine Accounting

Probate guidelines in some states need just a final accounting, not interim accountings. Interim accountings ought to be utilized for two factors currently noted above: starting the clock and answering before being asked.

Every state has a constraints duration for objections to accountings. For example, in Florida, interested individuals have one month after service to challenge accounting. An objection not prompt submitted is deemed abandoned. The accounting must be served along with a notification informing the recipient of this deadline. Banks send out clients monthly statements of their checking accounts in order to flush out any problems rapidly.

The same uses complex probate. The quicker the PR knows of an objection to something reported on the accounting, the much better. Monthly accountings in some probates make much sense; in others, quarterly accountings accomplish the purpose. The very same applies to trust accountings, but the deadline for objections in Florida is six months instead of thirty days. If the trustee only sends an annual accounting, the risk of a deal being challenged can run a full 18 months from the date of the transaction. This can be lowered to seven months by sending out monthly trust account accounting.

Trust accountings should likewise include a notice of the deadline.

8. Diagram the Assets and Process

A photo states a thousand words … and reveals work and progress.

9. Do Not Simply Interact, Collaborate

Complex probate often indicates there are lots of people, which suggests there are lots of brains. Trying to get all those brains to fix on one set of documents and act in a constant and unified way can be among the toughest aspects of a case.

In the olden days, we sent letters by postal mail with a stack of files for review by interested persons and their attorneys. The bundles took a couple of days to get here, and some got lost, so we changed to FedEx and carriers for next day delivery. There was still a great deal of paper, and we still had the issue of getting many individuals to focus on many files.

In either case, if a few weeks passed before the time for additional discussion or choice came, the receivers often might not quickly discover what had been sent to them. This required resending the package and additional hold-up.

Today we have e-mail, and it is a lot much faster; however, individuals still lose their e-mails or delete them, or they wind up in spam filters. Moreover, big document files are typically too big for e-mail.

Enter the Web and collaborative Web websites. Here the PR’s lawyer can post files for password-protected protected downloading by interested persons and their attorneys no matter what the size and without taxing e-mail systems. There are many providers; among the most promising is Microsoft SharePoint 2007.

Guest Idea (Suggested to the Author by Commonwealth Land Title Florida State Counsel)

When the estate owns real estate, every probate legal representative knows that orders admitting wills to probate, orders figuring out a homestead, and orders authorizing the sale of real estate need to be tape-recorded in the official land records. Title insurer advises, and typically need that the petitions also be recorded. This includes the petition for administration. The clerk might disagree with taping such files. However, title business wants them tape-recorded for an excellent factor: title business search indexes of the authorities records and frequently maintain duplicates of filings; however, they do not preserve duplicates of the court of probate files. Title business often discovers it challenging to obtain info from old probate files. Having the clerk record, all files connecting to real estate will make it simpler for title companies to do their jobs.

10. Scan, Scan, Scan

The single most beneficial pointer for dealing with complicated probate is this: scan the heck out of whatever. Scan every document that comes in and every file that heads out. Scan your incoming mail, your outgoing mail. Scan all e-mail. Scan all pleadings. Scan all surveys. Scan all appraisals. Scan all environmental reports. Scan all proof:

If it is paper, scan it. If it is e-mail, print it and scan it. If it is an e-mail attachment, wait, print it, and scan it;

The Law Firm Of Steven F. Bliss, Esq.

Address: 43920 Margarita Rd Ste F, Temecula, CA 92592
Phone: (951) 223-7000



Handling complex probate is difficult and time-consuming, but possible. The systematic application of fundamental probate law and treatments is one method to simplify the facts and situations that present themselves throughout the case. A systematic procedure is what made putting a male on the moon possible and enabled those in control to satisfy the lots of crises that developed along with the method.