Some clients ask, often with apprehension, whether they will have to deal with a paralegal. In reality, the benefits that a well-trained estate planning paralegal can bring to the attorney-client relationship are many. While not every law firm has paralegals on staff, many do. A paralegal’s value, especially in probate matters, can be substantial. More importantly, dealing with a paralegal on any type of legal matters, does not mean that clients will not work with their attorney.
Initial evaluation of the needs of the client
The initial meeting with a client is critical and should be attended by the attorney. Paralegals are very helpful when it comes to gathering all relevant information from the client, as well as providing the types of services the attorney determines is required for the client, based on his or her needs. A well-trained paralegal knows the documents and services for the client once the determination is made by the attorneys. After the initial consultation, paralegals will create and manage a customized calendar of important dates relevant to the client’s case, prepare documents, stay in touch with the client to make certain all necessary information is gathered and deadlines are met.
Paralegal as liaison
A paralegal’s job is often to be the liaison between the client and attorney. Why is this a good thing? Because attorneys have great demands on their time and a paralegal can help make communication between attorney and client more efficient.
Creating an inventory for probate matters
Probate paralegals, in particular, assist in filing the asset inventory with the court, as required. They are generally responsible for collecting asset information from the client and then drafting the actual inventory document to be filed. Paralegals can also evaluate assets, at the time of the decedent’s death, to determine any alternate valuation date that may apply.
Handling legal documents
Probate paralegals are specially trained to prepare and file most, if not all, of the documents required for the administration and closing of an estate in probate. Paralegals, with the supervision of the attorney, are capable of interpreting the provisions of wills and handling all aspects of surrendering life insurance and other death benefit claims. Taking care of these matters is very useful for the attorney and the client, as many tasks can be completed in a very efficient manner.
Evaluating creditor claims
Once a decedent’s creditors have been notified of the death, the paralegal will review any claims submitted by creditors to determine whether they are legitimate. The paralegal also keeps the financial records for the estate, verifies bank balances and prepares estimates for paying estate taxes, as necessary. They can then create the first draft federal estate tax returns and state inheritance tax returns, to be completed by the attorney and/or accountant, if required.
Non-probate related matters
Paralegals are also very useful in other areas of estate planning. They are often trained to handle the drafting of wills, trusts, documents needed for establishing guardianships, conservatorships, and many other estate planning documents. Paralegals are capable of drafting real and personal property sales documents, and power of attorney documents, among many other essential estate planning documents.
Paralegals are always supervised by attorneys
A paralegal’s work is always reviewed by the estate planning attorney for whom the work is being performed. As a paraprofessional, it is actually required that they work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. Similar to physician assistants and teaching assistants, paralegals are trained to assist the attorneys, who have more extensive training in the field. You can be certain that, if you work with a paralegal in our office, you will be receiving the top notch service we guarantee.
If you have questions regarding probate work, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, LTD either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.