Probate Attorney Meeting

Initial Meeting With the Estate Settlement Attorney


Initial Attorney Visit – Preparation and Process

Within a few weeks of the decedents death and funeral, it is customarily time for the executor to sit down and review the Estate Settlement process with a qualified attorney. Application of the attorney selection process should (hopefully) produce a highly experienced professional, adept at the Probate and Estate Administration process and provide real and tangible conveniences and benefits to the executor.  

In essence, the selection of a lawyer is the critical first step that the executor takes in the application of their fiduciary duties.   The selection and initial meeting with the estate’s attorney starts the Estate Settlement process and timeline by which their actions will be judged.

Intimidation and a Special Message for you “Type A’s”

Starting down the path of the executor’s duties will surely produce some trepidation and concerns for the executor.   The process when viewed in its complexity is intimidating for nearly everyone. Other than the web site and a few books, that we know of, there is no free publicly available resource to learn about the basics of Estate and Probate Settlement.

So if you are feeling a little overwhelmed and intimidated it is likely the result of your growing understanding of the importance of your impending responsibilities ahead.   Concerns in moderation, may in fact be a good thing.   If heavy concerns persists (read: Should you serve?)

Those possessing the classic “Type A” character traits are often the ones chosen to serve as executor of estates. For these “task mastering’ individuals you get our respect and a word of caution.

Don’t rush, be patient, look around you, come up for air and most importantly take care of yourself. Yeah, in your mind you may be organizational “go-getter” but your heart and emotions are in uncharted waters’ and the reason that we have provided extensive articles on grief care.  

Addressing Estate Settlement issues should not leave deep emotional scars, or a family torn apart in the name of efficiency, or authority.

What Does the Big Picture Look Like?

When you visit your attorney, his initial questions will likely involve the “big picture” characteristics of the decedent’s assets and will provisions. Each estate is different; your estate circumstances may only have a limited number of beneficiaries (for example one) and the holdings of the estate may consist of highly liquid assets or have predetermined beneficiaries. Given these characteristics the process may in fact move quickly and be devoid of laboring with “judgment calls” for the executor.  

Estate’s with numerous holdings in real estate (and other low liquidity assets), valuable personal property, complex tax issues and a gaggle of beneficiaries will face a whole different set of challenges and potential criticisms.   If this is your situation, don’t panic you were chosen by the decedent because they believed in you! and help is on the way.   Your attorney should be your primary advisor and coach in this regard.

Introductory Outline of Estate
For Preliminary Use by Attorney and Executor Only
(This Example is for Illustrative Proposes Only)

Dad owned: (that I know about at this point…)                      Guesstimate Value

Assets (list all know)

Example:He owns a house in Florida and a vacation hone in Maine    $_____________

A checking, savings and brokerage account                               $_____________

Retirement Account of :held at:______________                      $ ____________

A valuable collection of:            _______________                    $_____________

Other Valuable assets of:         _______________                    $_____________

                                                                                                            Sub Total __________

Liabilities (list all know)

Significant expenses of: _______________                              $_____________

Significant debts or liability of: __________                              $_____________

                                                                                                            Sub Total ___________

Calculate Guesstimate Value of Estate

Asset Sub Total                                     ____________

Minus Liabilities Sub Total        -            ____________

Equals Guesstimate Value of Estate                         $_____________


Be mindful that the executor is not a certified appraiser of “fair market value” of anything, (actual appraised estate values will be addressed later in the process) and that the estate’s true value is unknown at such a preliminary early stage in the process.  Absolutely no action should be taken in regards to a guesstimate value of any assets without an attorney’s and or courts approval. Also, it is not a good idea to give your guesstimate value to beneficiaries as they will create expectations of what their share of the estate “owes them”.   Let them do their own guesstimates and math if they so desire.   

List all important bills due:

Bill type ________ Due Date______                Amount $____________


There is a unique family issue (or conflict) of: ___________________________________________

As serving as Executor my biggest concern is: __________________________________________

The Will states specific bequests of:  

Item____________      Beneficiary ___________

Item____________      Beneficiary ___________

( list all)  

This worksheet is not intended to be a complete list. Consult legal counsel for details. Disclaimer


At the Initial meeting with the Attorney the Executor should present:  

  • The Original Last Will and Testament of the decedent (this is executor) entrance ticket to the process)

If the will has yet to be found, the interested party (or family member) should  present to the attorney any information regarding safe deposit boxes or other information regarding the likely whereabouts of the original will. Interested parties should take no further actions without the attorney’s and or courts approval or direction).

Executors possessing the Last will and testament

May wish to bring to the Initial Attorney Visit the following:

  1. The Original Last Will and Testament (must bring)
  2. Guesstimate Estate Value Worksheet with commentary (above)
  3. Glossary of Terms
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Preliminary Estate Settlement Document Checklist
  6. Estate Settlement Professional Checklist
  7. Estate Settlement Timeline
  8. List of questions of any introductory items or issues that you don’t understand.
  9. Several (3) copies of the certified death certificates of the decedent (if available)
  10. The decedent’s social security #
  11. Copies of Insurance policies and retirement statements
  12. Any statements that indicate a joint owner or any beneficiary designation

It may also be advisable for the Executor to study items 1 - 7 in preparation for the attorney meeting.   Our materials and tools are preliminary and introductory in nature and are not designed to be documents submitted to any authority as being total, complete analysis of any specific circumstances of an estate.   If the attorney so directs, use their formatted questionnaires and worksheets exclusively.

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