When you file for probate, at some point you will likely encounter the probate clerk. In states that allow for electronic filing, these encounters will be more limited. Nevertheless, you should be aware of and know your probate clerk, as they can be a valuable resource to help you with your probate.
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Before that, however, we should take a step back and ask a simple question:
What is a probate clerk?
Courts have clerks, and probate courts have probate clerks. They are the judge’s helpers. They schedule court dates, help file documents, and manage all the people who come in through the probate court’s office.
Probate clerks get asked a lot of questions, deal with a lot of people, and can have bad days just like anyone. Here are a set of 5 rules to help you succeed in your interactions with the probate clerk.
Tips on interacting with a probate clerk
1. Be nice. Do not turn the probate clerk into your foe. You may be frustrated and handling a lot of emotions, but work your best to make the probate clerk your friend. You want them on your side.
2. Have any questions you have prepared in writing. You’ll be better able to remember what you need to know so you can ask specific questions about your case.
3. Call in advance. You may be able to get answers to your questions over the phone, so call before you go to the probate clerk’s office. If they allow for scheduling, you may want to schedule a specific meeting time.
4. Try not to ask for specific legal advice. If you ask a question like “If my sister objects, can I still be in charge?” the clerk will tell you they cannot give legal advice. This is true. Try and reframe your question to focus on the form, and the specific section or box on the form. Also, don't forget that Trust & Wills Offers the option to get legal advice from a lawyer through our Attorney Plan if you do need legal counsel (subject to state availability).
5. Don’t get discouraged or panic. You may get pushback from the clerk if you have a form missing information, or something filled out incorrectly. The probate clerk cannot arbitrarily reject your form or application. They must give you a specific reason as to why you were rejected. Once the information is given as to why your application was rejected, simply fix the form and submit it again.
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