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What to Expect from the Attorney Ad Litem

About the Attorney Ad Litem

The probate court commonly appoints an attorney ad litem in cases where the deceased left no will, commonly known as intestate cases. However, the court can also appoint an ad litem under other specific circumstances, such as when one of the heirs is a minor or in situations that require special legal attention.

Who is the Attorney Ad Litem?

The Attorney Ad Litem is an attorney who signs up to be on a court-approved list for these appointments. These attorneys typically are not highly compensated for their work in probate cases. Ad litem fees, which are non-negotiable, usually average around $800.

The attorney will provide an invoice to the party who applies for probate for their services. This is a cost of administration, so the party that pays the expense is generally entitled to reimbursement from the estate if there are sufficient assets to do so (some counties require this fee to be paid upfront).

Responsibilities of the Attorney Ad Litem

The primary role of the Attorney Ad Litem is investigative. They are tasked with:

  1. Confirming the absence of any discoverable will.
  2. Verifying that no marriages or children have been omitted from the application filed for probate.

They also file an Answer in the probate case, and then attend the probate hearing.

The Ad Litem’s Investigative Process

Upon appointment, the attorney ad litem typically files a general denial with the court for their Answer. This is typically a procedural formality.

We then supply the attorney ad litem with the documentation they require for their investigation, which often includes:

  • Decedent’s obituary
  • Marriage Licenses (if any)
  • Death Certificates (for the Decedent and any predeceased children)
  • Birth Certificates (for any living or deceased children, including adopted children)
  • Contact information for your two disinterested witnesses

Using this information, the Attorney Ad Litem will:

  1. Contact the applicant (you) and the witnesses.
  2. Conduct public searches, which may involve checking social media accounts or consulting third-party databases.

This investigation is typically pretty limited, but it is generally sufficient for the court’s purposes.

You usually do not need to prepare for conversations with the Attorney Ad Litem, as these are routine inquiries. With that said, this may not be the case if there is a complication in your case related to family relationships. You should discuss these situations with your probate attorney before discussing the case with the Attorney Ad Litem.

Once the Attorney Ad Litem is satisfied with the application’s accuracy, they will notify us, allowing us to proceed to schedule the court hearing.

What Happens During the Hearing?

During the hearing, the Attorney Ad Litem will be present to question the witnesses. Generally, they will ask questions to confirm the information gathered during their investigation.

Delays and How We Manage Them

You may experience delays in your case due to the Attorney Ad Litem’s schedule. Unfortunately, because Attorney Ad Litems are court-appointed, the court has little insight into their current workload. Additionally, since Attorney Ad Litems typically don’t earn much from these cases, your case may not be their top priority.

However, rest assured that we do our best to follow up and push for progress. If delays become excessive, we can petition the court to appoint a different Attorney Ad Litem, although this is rare.

Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with probate administrations. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters.


Disclaimer:  The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney.


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