General Duties of a Legal Assistant in Probate and Estate Planning

General Duties of a Legal Assistant in Probate and Estate Planning

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What is probate?

Probate is a legal process through which the probate court ascertains the validity of the will and last testament of the testator. The last will and testament of the testator contains specific instructions of the testator on how his assets should be distributed among his heirs. In a case whereby there is no will, the probate court will determine based on the state’s law how the estate of the deceased person will be distributed among his heirs

Estate plan

An estate plan covers a wider range compared to a will. In fact the will is just one of the documents in an estate plan. An estate plan makes provisions for eventuality such as incapacitation of a person, etc.

Legal assistants help with the administrative services required for a smooth process and an excellent outcome in probate and estate planning. Such services include the following;

  • They organize and draft estate planning documents and help clients fund their trusts.
  • They help with estate tax research and planning and in preparing summaries and analyses of estate planning documents
  • Schedules initial meeting with the client and attorney and offers general administrative support, such as making travel arrangements for the lawyer and preparing and maintaining their calendar system
  • Taking notes during these initial meetings of the attorney and clients which gives him or her clear understanding of the client’s estate planning goals. These notes are included in the files of the clients which is under the care of the legal assistant
  • Collect data for estate planning including current estate plans and assets and draft wills, codicils, trust agreements and amendments
  • Organizing and maintaining documents such as, birth, death, and marriage certificates in filing systems, both paper and electronic
  • Draft documents necessary to fund trusts and apply for employer identification number and file notices of fiduciary relationship
  • To prepare the preliminary income projections and estimate taxes and also draft federal and state tax returns for conservatorship and every court documents for conservatorship
  • Prepare tax calculations for various estate plans and assist in audit of tax returns including correspondence, affidavits and statements submitted upon audit. And also draft tax returns for non-probate estate
  • Draft ante nuptial agreements and make post-mortem tax planning calculations
  • To interpret the decedent’s will and locate witnesses to will
  • Prepare and record powers of attorney and as well collecting and organizing information and legal documents for the lawyer to review
  • To value the decedent’s assets as at the date-of-death or alternate valuation date
  • Collecting information on assets for preparation of tax returns and review documents and tax returns in connection with an ancillary proceeding
  • To locate and notify the heirs and beneficiaries of probate proceeding and likewise, publish appropriate notice to interested persons or the general public
  • Investigating and performing legal research as it pertains to wills entitlement issues, trusts, creditor claims, and conservatorship challenges. There may be need for the legal assistant to interview a bank personnel concerning assets, talk with family members relative to guardianship requests, conduct estate inventories, or meet with charitable beneficiaries to verify receipt of entitlements
  • Files for insurance proceeds and death benefits and prepare federal and state fiduciary income tax returns
  • Drafting and proofreading legal documents and corresponding with creditors and debtors to obtain important information
  • Communicating with clients to schedule meetings, interviews and depositions
  • Provide answers to questions from personal representative, spouse and other parties interested
  • To prepare and convey the documents necessary for the transfer of liquidation of assets such as, real estate, stock and motor vehicles
  • Likewise, prepares individual income tax returns for beneficiaries and federal inheritance tax return and state estate tax return.
  • Arrange for tax releases and payment of taxes and draft federal and state gift tax returns
  • Draft accountings, maintain financial records of the estate and prepare decedent’s final federal and state individual income tax returns
  • To prepare disallowance of claims against the estate and monitor such claims including court files
  • Draft inventory, make arrangement for and attend inventory of safe deposit box
  • To draft petitions and orders for partial and complete distribution schedule and closing documents
  • Draft court documents for guardianship, inventory and accountings for guardianship
  • Managing client billing by preparing and sending out bills and resolving billing issues

In case you are in need of legal advice or you are looking to hire an attorney, call us as our attorneys are always available for consult and hire.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group.

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