Who Qualifies as Part of the Probate Party Process?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
August 9, 2021
Estate administration (or probate) can be a lengthy court process. It requires addressing the ABCs of a deceased persons’s life: assets, beneficiaries and creditors. But let’s first talk about what constitutes an individual to be a qualifying probate party.
Below is a list of qualified people you can expect to be involved in any probate party. During the probate process, each group will have access to documents, pleadings and filings. Whatever is not “public” will still be reviewed by many people. The only way to minimize this is to avoid estate administration (probate) altogether.
- Interested Persons(family) – Pursuant to Interested Persons are required to be apprised of the estate’s progress with proper notice of pleadings. In addition, these probate parties must receive copies of accountings and inventories.
- Business Partners – Your business partner is now deceased so his or her estate owns the shares of the business now. and the heirs of your business partner will have something to say about the business management and operation unless you plan ahead. So we highly encourage you to plan ahead.
- Creditors – Many don’t like it, but creditors have rights too. They must be notified of proceedings and receive copies of various filings, such as the estate inventory or amended inventories.
- Personal Representative – the Personal Representative is the person who is responsible for administering the estate through the probate proceedings. They must be incredibly familiar with the deceased’s assets, beneficiaries and creditors. And they have a fiduciary duty to uphold their obligations and protect and enhance the estate..
- Attorneys – Attorneys will obviously be a key probate party. They prepare filings, notices, correspond with actual and purported beneficiaries, actual and purported creditors and attend court appearances as necessary. And the attorney will obviously be aware of the deceased’s information and the status of the administration.
- Paralegals – A paraprofessional will assist in preparation of all documents, pleadings and hearings. So they will also be aware of the deceased’s information and the status of the administration.
- Associates – An associate or junior partner attorney will assist in preparation of all documents, pleadings and hearings. Therefore, he or she too will be aware of the deceased’s information and the status of the administration.
- Court clerks – The circuit court clerks are responsible for receiving filings, evaluating them, approving them and then organizing them into the file. You can expect the clerk to review every piece of paper that comes across their desk.
- Case managers – Clerk staff pass on the files to the case managers once the files are ready to proceed. This is usually after a filing comes in requesting the Judge’s review and signature. They ensure that mistakes are not made, notices are not missed, and the requests are properly approved or denied.
- Judicial assistant (JA) – Every circuit court judge has a judicial assistant to assist with reviewing cases, documents and pleadings. They will likely review the file and law on the subject in order to help the judge make an informed decision. JA is another set of eyes on the documents and member of the estate party.
- Judge – Obviously the judge has the review the file and pleadings and rule on each one. Good judges review their files very carefully to avoid mistakes. And in the context of probate, mistakes can substantially and adversely affect peoples’ rights.
As you can see, there are many people that may qualify as a member of a probate party. Many involved parties can delay proceedings, especially where there are limited case managers and staff. In addition, the number of people involved in probate translates to less privacy as well. If privacy is a paramount concern, you want to avoid probate and consult with a highly qualified estate attorney.
Originally published 01/09/2018. Updated 08/09/2021.
YOU ARE NOT OUR CLIENT UNLESS WE EXECUTE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT TO THAT EFFECT. MOREOVER, THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. EACH SITUATION IS HIGHLY FACT SPECIFIC AND EXCEPTIONS OFTEN EXIST TO GENERAL RULES. DO NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION, AS A CONSULTATION TO UNDERSTAND THE FACTS AND THE CLIENT’S NEEDS AND GOALS IS NECESSARY. ULTIMATELY WE MUST BE RETAINED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE AND REPRESENTATION. THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED AS A COURTESY AND, ACCORDINGLY, DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.