The probate court will appoint an ad litem in intestate cases. These are cases where there was no will. The court may also appoint an ad litem in some other cases, such as cases where one of the heirs is a minor, etc.
The ad litem is just an attorney who puts their name on the court’s list to be appointed by the court. For most probates, they don’t get paid much. Most make about $600 (they will provide a bill for their services).
Their job is to do an investigation to make sure that (1) no will could be located and/or (2) there are no marriages or children omitted from the application we filed.
Once appointed, the ad litem will file a general denial with the court. This is a formality.
We provide the attorney ad litem with most of the items they will need to do their investigation. This will typically include the:
Once the ad litem has this information, they will usually call the applicant (you) and the two witnesses. They will ask questions to confirm:
The ad litem may also do some public searches. This may include checking Facebook pages or using a third party database.
As you can see, the investigation is not very thorough. You don’t need to prepare for the conversations with the attorney ad litem or be intimidated by the process. These are routine inquiries.
Once the attorney ad litem is comfortable that the application is correct, they will let us know so that we can schedule the hearing.
The ad litem will then attend the hearing and ask questions of the witnesses. The questions usually reference the phone call and ask the witness to confirm that (1) there was no will found and (2) that there are were no marriages or children omitted from the application we filed.
Ad litems are assigned by the court. The court has no way of knowing how busy the attorney is at the time. Thus, the case may be assigned to an attorney ad litem who is tied up on other matters. That is one reason why the ad litems are typially slow in carrying out their work.
The other reason has to do with the money involved. Attorney ad litems do not make much money for this type of work. Right or wrong, it just doesn’t get priority.
The result is often a delay in the case. We do are best to follow up with the attorney ad litems and push them along, but, in large part, we have to wait. If the delay is excessive, we can eventually ask the court to appoint a different attorney ad litem. But this is the exception and not the rule.