Whether you are in line for an inheritance from a deceased relative or being asked to act as the executor of an estate, you probably have a lot of questions. Getting the right answers to those questions is essential, since even a simple mistake could have costly and long-lasting consequences.
A qualified probate attorney can be a wealth of information in these difficult situations, and contacting such an expert should be high on your to-do list. When you do have your first meeting with the probate attorney, you should be prepared with these critical questions.
1. Do You Specialize in Probate Law?
It is important to find out if the probate attorney you are meeting with is a true specialist, or just a generalist who occasionally dabbles in wills and estates. Probate law is a very specialized area of the law, and it is important to seek out an attorney with expertise in this area.
You can find out a lot about your proposed probate attorney before you even get to the office. Start by taking a look at the company website – does it list multiple specialties or focus on probate law? Once you are in the office, you can discuss past cases, levels of expertise and training and other critical areas.
2. Do You Have Experience In Front of the Court Where My Case Will Be Heard?
Every court is different, and every probate judge runs his or her courtroom in a specific manner. Working with a probate attorney who knows the ins and outs of the courtroom where your case will be heard can be a huge advantage, so be sure to ask about this specific expertise.
Hiring a local probate attorney is no guarantee of expertise with the court where your case will be heard. If you want to gauge their specific expertise, you will need to ask this critical question. Do not be afraid to delve deep; the outcome of your case depends on it.
3. Have You Handled Similar Cases? If So, What Was the Outcome?
Experience with cases similar to yours is essential, so ask about the past experience of the probate attorney. Have they recently handled a case that was similar to yours in size, scope and complexity? If so, what was the outcome of that case? Were there any unexpected twists and turns, or did the case go largely the way the attorney expected?
The more you know about past cases, the easier it will be to make a smart decision. While every probate case is different, there are some commonalities, and specific expertise could tip the odds in your favor.
4. What Kind of Time Frame Do You Anticipate?
Once again, every probate case is different, and the time frame for completion can vary widely. A simple probate case could be decided within a week, while a complex action could take months to close.
When you meet with the probate attorney and discuss the specifics of your own probate case, ask for their estimate of the time frame. Be sure to provide all of the relevant details, and bring copies of all of the paperwork that may be needed. The more the probate attorney knows about your case, the easier it will be to provide an accurate and realistic time frame.
5. What Kinds of Issues Do You Anticipate?
All kinds of things can crop up in the course of a probate action, and it is important to be ready for anything. Ask your probate attorney what issues he or she expects during the court proceedings, based on the information you have just provided.
Even the most experienced probate attorney cannot anticipate every possible twist and turn or predict everything that might happen. Even so, the greater the level of expertise and courtroom experience, the more prepared the attorney can be when the court date rolls around.
6. Can I Reach You If I Need You, Even Outside Office Hours?
A good probate attorney will have convenient office hours, including extended hours through the week and some availability on weekends as well. Ask about those operating hours, but go further and inquire about after-hours availability as well.
All kinds of things can crop up during a probate action, and you may need to reach an attorney or paralegal when the office is closed. Ask about the procedure for doing so, and how you can reach someone if something unexpected comes up.
You can also test the responsiveness of the probate law firm during and after your initial meeting. Send an email in advance of the scheduled meeting and see how long it takes for someone to respond. Give the office a call and ask to speak to a paralegal. Does someone answer the phone right away, or are you put on hold? Does the staff seem friendly? Is it easy to get answers to your questions? If the firm is unresponsive now, their response time is unlikely to improve once you are a client.
7. What Fees Will I Be Asked to Pay?
Every probate case is different, and the fees will vary as well. Even so, an experienced probate attorney should be able to give you a ballpark figure, based on the paperwork and documentation you have provided.
Be sure to get information about fees and expenses in writing. Even if the figure is just an estimate, it will give you something to work with and make your life a lot easier.
Dealing with an estate can be a difficult and intimidating process, but it does not have to be. If you know what to look for and which questions to ask, you can find a great probate attorney – a law firm that is great at what they do and a professional who truly has your best interests at heart.
Do You Need Help with Probate Matters?
As you can see, the probate process in Arizona is complex. It requires a number of steps and without the right approach, it’s easy to get lost in the details.
At JacksonWhite, we can make probate a clear, easy-to-understand process. If you’d like help with probate matters, call the talented team at JacksonWhite Law today.
We can help explain your legal options and direct you to the probate solution that works for you and your loved ones.