The Settlement Alliance

Probate and Settlement: Is Your Client Legally Authorized to Participate?

Probate and Settlement: Is Your Client Legally Authorized to Participate?

Feb 28, 2017

There are a number of issues that can arise during settlement, not the least of which is matters surrounding probate. Probate laws vary by state and within each state, county probate courts have their own sets of rules and procedures. Settlements involving multiple claimants can complicate the process even further, leaving law firms scrambling to track down heirs and get all of the necessary paperwork completed.

While probate is controlled via statutory timelines and local rules and procedures, there are certain steps that law firms can take to help the process move along smoothly. The earlier you start, the better chance you have at getting any issues resolved by the time the settlement proceeds are ready for distribution. In most cases, settlement funds will not be disbursed until the probate process is complete.

6 steps to alleviate probate issues:

As early as possible, follow the six steps below to ensure that your client has the legal authority to participate in litigation, settle the claim, and distribute a settlement owed to an estate.

  1. Get the right info at the beginning: On your intake form(s), require the claimant to list their relationship to the decedent.
  2. Gather personal documentation: Request the decedent’s death certificate, birth certificates for all children of the decedent, and documentation regarding the decedent’s prior marriages (if applicable).
  3. Ask for probate documents: Request any and all existing probate documents, regardless of whether or not they have been properly filed in a probate court.
  4. Use available search databases: Run a search to identify all possible heirs.
  5. Protect yourself: Include provisions in your contract requiring the disclosure of any and all heirs and the immediate notification of your office if probate proceedings begin or if other heirs come forward at any time during representation.
  6. Keep detailed contact records: Document all attempts to speak with the claimant, as well as details about any information obtained during those attempts.

Contact us today

The Settlement Alliance’s probate team is ready to answer your questions. We also have a network of local probate counsel across the nation to help with probate matters in your jurisdiction. Contact us today to learn more.

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  • American general Life Companies
  • Berkshire Hathaway Structured Settlements
  • MetLife
  • Mutual of Omaha
  • New York Life
  • Pacific Life
  • Prudential