In practice, the attorney prepares documents for the Personal Representative. These may include Petitions, Affidavits, Notices, Accountings, Reports, Letters, etc. The laws of the State place many requirements on the Personal Representative, and the process of administering the estate must be followed.
The attorney is available to guide the Personal Representative through the process of administering the estate of the deceased. As indicated in previous posts, the probate process is a procedure that is very foreign to most people. An experienced probate attorney can answer questions as the process moves forward and help the Personal Representative avoid potential pitfalls.
As an example, a beneficiary may contact the Personal Representative and inquire about their distribution from the estate. The Personal Representative would be well advised not to distribute any funds from the estate until the claim period runs. (More to come on this later.)
As with all cases, issues do arise, and the attorney is responsible for guiding the Personal Representative through the process. Sometimes the attorney can take on tasks that the Personal Representative may not be able to accomplish or has not been able to accomplish. For instance, some institutions or governmental agencies are very difficult to deal with. (The IRS immediately comes to mind.) It is sometimes much more expedient for the attorney to deal with these individuals than have the Personal Representative make multiple calls to resolve an issue.
Many times, the attorney can attempt to mediate family disputes as an uninterested third party. This usually relieves the Personal Representative from having to deal with these types of issues in an already stressful time.
The attorney's role in the process is varied, but it can be extremely helpful. I am somewhat biased, but the guidance and advice of an attorney throughout this process is indispensable.
In Part 4 we will discuss how claims against the estate may arise, how they get satisfied, and their timing.