How to prepare for an initial meeting with a probate lawyer

As an executor or administrator of someone’s estate, you may want to meet with a probate lawyer to talk you through the probate process and you may decide you want help to administer the estate.

What does someone’s estate include?

Someone’s estate includes all property that a person owns. An estate can be divided into three categories, the gross estate, residue estate and estate debts, details of which are as follows:

  • Gross estate - a gross estate is made up of the larger items that you own, such as any property, investments, stocks and shares, bank accounts, pensions and life insurance policies.
  • Residue estate - a residue estate includes all personal property including cars, jewellery, furniture, paintings and any other items in your home. 
  • Estate debts - estate debts include any monies owed at your date of death. This can consist of any unpaid utility bills, credit card debts, mortgages on properties, student loans and any unpaid invoices.

Meeting with a probate lawyer for the first time

Before you meet with a probate lawyer, there are several things you should find out about the estate, in order to get the most out of the meeting. You should also gather all relevant documents regarding the estate.

What to do before an initial meeting with a probate lawyer

Before meeting with a probate lawyer, you need to do the following:

  • Register the deceased’s death at a register office
  • Establish whether the deceased had a will and if so, try and find a copy of it
  • If you have access to the deceased’s will, cross reference the beneficiaries’ addresses and ensure they are still up-to-date
  • Gather details regarding the deceased’s assets and liabilities (as per the information below)

What to bring to an initial meeting with a probate lawyer

When you meet with a probate lawyer, make sure you have the following items with you:

  • Deceased’s original death certificate
  • Deceased’s original will or a copy. If the deceased died without leaving a will, provide a family tree of the deceased’s family  
  • Copies of recent financial statements for the deceased, for example, bank accounts, investment portfolios etc
  • Copies of any life assurance policies
  • Copies of deeds or the title to any property the deceased owned, together with an estimate of the value of property
  • Details of any state or private pensions
  • Documents regarding trusts
  • Details of any further personal property and the values of them, for example, cars, art, antiques, valuable jewellery
  • Income Tax Returns if the deceased was filing them
  • An estimate of the deceased’s household goods
  • Copies of any utility bills that are owed, including water, gas, credit cards etc
  • A note of the deceased’s national insurance number

What to expect from an initial meeting with a probate lawyer

The probate lawyer will go through each clause of the deceased’s will with you, so that you know what the will outlines. If the deceased did not leave a will, the probate lawyer will discuss the deceased’s family background to determine who the beneficiaries of the estate will be.

The probate lawyer will ask several questions to establish the size of the deceased’s estate.  Although you do not need to provide exact figures at this stage, it is important to establish a rough size of the estate, so that the probate lawyer can determine whether there may be Inheritance Tax payable. They can try and work out which Tax forms will need to be filled in, as every estate is different.  

They will also advise whether they think an application for a Grant of Probate will be needed and will talk you through this process.

Whilst you will be asked various questions regarding the estate, you also have the opportunity to raise any queries you have regarding the probate process. You may find it easier to write down any questions you wish to raise prior to the meeting so that you do not forget them.

What happens after a meeting with a probate lawyer?

If you choose to instruct a probate lawyer to help you administer the estate, they will write to you setting out what has been agreed and what their fees will be to assist. They will then help you progress the administration of the estate.

Helpful links about probate

Probate - frequently asked questions 

What is the role of an executor?

What is probate?

Intestacy rules - what happens if you die without making a will?

Who to contact about probate

If a loved one has passed away and you are looking for advice as to what your next steps should be, please do not hesitate to contact me. Leah Woodnott is based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 247609 or 


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