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Probate court proceedings can be a mysterious process. After all, most of us wrap up the affairs of a deceased loved one only once or twice in our lives. You may want to hire a lawyer to handle the actual court paperwork for you, or to advise you as you go; you may decide to go it alone, with the help of materials provided by the court. (More and more courts are publishing very helpful overviews, forms, and instructions online.)
Shepherding an estate through probate court usually involves a lot of paperwork, but no courtroom drama. If you decide to tackle probate without a lawyer, the court clerk should be your new best friend. You’ll go to the clerk’s office for forms, for instructions, and for all kinds of information about the probate court process in your county. Every county has its own peculiarities and requirements. Just don’t go to the clerk’s office for legal advice—they won’t give it, because they’re not lawyers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be a very valuable source of how to make it smoothly through the probate process.