Maine operates a probate court system located in various county courthouses throughout the state, guided by elected probate judges and registrars. Cloutier, Conley & Duffett has regularly practiced in the probate courts of Maine during its entire 30 year history.
Maine is among the states which has significantly reformed its probate practice to ease administration of estates and reduce overall estate costs. In pre-reform times, it was not uncommon for attorneys to charge a percentage of the value of any estate as a fee, despite the limited effort needed to fulfill routine probate practice tasks. The required standard forms for filing probate proceedings in Maine were virtually incomprehensible and probate clerks were trained to refer citizens to attorneys instead of assisting them in preparing filings.
Today, a process called informal probate is the most common means for administering estates of any size in Maine, including those where real estate is transferred, trusts are created or terminated and relatively complex investment or business transactions must be completed. Although the process is informal, the rights of all affected parties are fully protected through a readily available optional process to invoke the direct supervision of the probate office and the probate judge in disputed or controversial aspects of estate administration.
Cloutier, Conley & Duffett confines its charges to the actual time and expenses at prevailing reasonable rates for services rendered in the opening, administration and closing of estates. Often, an estate can be fully probated, except for the filing of a final income taxation return for the estate and formal closing, within a year, with all of the liabilities of the estate addressed and assets distributed to heirs as specified by the will or Maine law.