How can an attorney help you with probate?

When a loved one passes away, families often face a huge amount of logistical hassles and tasks in the midst of their grief.  The last thing you want to deal with on top of all the other arrangements are court systems and unfamiliar procedures.  That is one of the reasons many people turn to an attorney for help with probate.  If you are seeking legal assistance to go through the probate process in New Mexico here are some of the things you can expect your lawyer to help you with.

Does probate need to be opened?

Sometimes a Decedent’s property can be distributed without opening probate.  This can happen if their assets were held jointly with someone else, if they used payable on death designations, or if their total estate is valued at less than $50,000 and a Small Estate Affidavit is appropriate.  An attorney will help you get clarity on if probate is even necessary.

Who should be the Personal Representative?

The Personal Representative is the person who is in charge of making sure that a Decedent’s estate is distributed either according to the laws of intestacy (when someone dies without a Will) or according to the wishes in their estate planning documents.  This person has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the estate.  Often, the Personal Representative is named by the Decedent in their Will.  Sometimes however, a more detailed analysis is needed to determine who should be the Personal Representative.  A probate attorney can help you make this determination and file the appropriate paperwork in the correct court to open probate and have the right person appointed as the personal representative.

How to track down and keep track of assets

One of the most important tasks in a probate case is making sure that there is an accurate accounting of the Decedent’s assets.  Sometimes this is a straight forward task, but occasionally it requires some detective work to track down and communicate with different financial institutions that are holding the Decedent’s assets.  This can be more complicated if the Decedent owned assets in different counties or states.  A probate attorney can help you open an estate account to hold the estate’s assets before they are distributed, file an appropriate inventory with the court, and communicate with financial institutions on your behalf.

What to do about creditors

Families are often confused about what bills they need to pay for a loved one after their death and where that money should come from.  In a probate case there are rules about how a Decedent’s creditors have to notify the court about a debt that is owed, and how long the estate has to wait for the creditors to come forward.  A probate attorney can explain those deadlines to you, publish notice to creditors appropriately, and help you identify which creditors have valid claims or not.

Conflict Among Families

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for families to run into conflict after the death of a loved one.  An attorney can be very helpful in these situations to ensure that the probate laws are complied with.  You can hire an attorney to help you if you are the Personal Representative, or if you are a beneficiary of someone’s estate and you need help making sure the Personal Representative is fulfilling their fiduciary duty.

If you have specific questions in regards to a loved one’s estate, call an elder law attorney or contact our office at 505-872-0505.