Often times an individual may feel that once an attorney is engaged, the entire probate process will be completed entirely by that attorney. Though there are many reasons for having an attorney, which by the way we encourage our clients to do; there are some things that may need the knowledge and special expertise of a financial advisor or accountant. Quite often financial advisors, attorneys and accountants will work as a team, just for the fact that all three are specialists in their field.
An attorney will be able to assist you with the application for administration or probate of will process. The first step in this process is to file an application with the appropriate probate court, together with a certified death certificate and the original will and codicils. The application will list basic information about the decedent, including the beneficiaries under any will or codicil and all heirs at law.
Once the executor or administrator is appointed, the attorney can assist him/her with their duties. For instance, the probate court will have a “Notice to Creditors” published in a local newspaper. Creditors have five months to present claims against the estate to the executor or administrator. As you can imagine, someone appointed as executor or administrator, most likely being faced with this responsibility for the first time, may want to have an attorney to support his/her actions.
Possibly the most important job of an attorney during the probate process is the filing of tax returns following the decedent’s date of death, in a timely fashion. There are specific time periods for some of these filings. A very important fact is that the Executor or administrator must file a Connecticut estate tax return, regardless of whether any estate tax is due.
An example of where you could need the expertise of a financial planner would be in the filing of claims. An example of this might be when someone owns an annuity that may have certain income benefits built into the program. Many attorneys do not understand how these income programs work, and because of this may file a claim in the proper format, but miss out on thousands, and at times tens of thousands of dollars in guaranteed income by not choosing the right type of payout.