Estate Planning & Probate

Attorneys Donna L. Depoian, Robert A. Dietz
Donna L. Depoian | Robert A. Dietz
Wills and Trusts Attorneys Advising New Hampshire Residents

At Normandin, Cheney & O'Neil, our New Hampshire estate planning and probate attorneys have provided services to residents throughout Belknap, Carroll, Grafton, and Merrimack counties since 1914, and we are well prepared to advise and guide you through the process. An elder law attorney may also be important and needed to protect your interests. Normandin, Cheney & O’Neil, PLLC provides a range of services to assist clients in managing the transfer of their estates including drafting Wills, Revocable Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Advance Directives. Our firm has over 100 years of experience in the areas of estate planning as well as Probate and Trust administration, Guardianships, Probate Litigation and assisting elderly clients as they progress through their senior years. We also assist clients with Medicaid planning when needed and appropriate.

Our focus is on developing personal client relationships that enable us to achieve the proper estate planning strategy for your family. We provide estate planning services to clients with all levels of income, assets and wealth, various ages, including individuals who own their own businesses. Whether your estate requires a simple Will or a revocable Trust to help avoid probate, our firm is equipped to help you devise an estate planning strategy that meets your needs. We often assist clients by helping them avoid the complexities, costly expenses and time consuming hassle of probate. Creating a Trust may be ideal if you wish to avoid probate or have minor children or children who require college education expenses to be paid and do not wish for your children to have immediate unlimited access to funds.

We are also very familiar with the complexities and issues involved with planning for blended families and second marriages. As part of the planning process, our lawyers are well equipped to anticipate future challenges and prepare prenuptial agreements or structure Trusts such that everyone’s goals are met in the present and honored in the future. Depending on the client’s unique set of circumstances we focus on identifying and retitling assets so that they pass to the appropriate parties and ideally pass without probate administration.

The Process

Estate planning begins with an examination of your assets and objectives followed by the preparation of legal documents to direct the disposition of your estate following your death. The development of an estate plan will involve several discussions and correspondence between you and the attorneys in our firm to ensure your goals are implemented and met. We take the time to meet with clients to understand their needs, goals and objectives. Typically this involves an initial meeting to discuss your family, your asset holdings, transfer goals, family dynamics and other relevant details. Appropriate estate planning strategies will be explained and discussed for your consideration. Decisions will need to be made to select who will serve as your Executor, Trustee, Attorney-in-fact and Health Care Agent.

We then draft the appropriate documents for your review which is followed by a meeting to properly execute such documents in the presence of witnesses and a Notary Public. Our goal is to provide an estate plan that remains flexible and can be adapted to our client’s future needs as they age and the dynamics of their family situation change. Our clients routinely stay in touch with us over the years to make appropriate changes as their families and financial circumstances evolve and change. We have extensive experience dealing with assets and business succession planning as well as Trust creation and administration, probate administration, drafting traditional Wills and pour over Wills to help clients achieve their goals relative to their property.

We also stay ahead of all tax law changes to ensure that your estate can pass without a substantial amount of your assets being spent to pay federal estate taxes, currently set at a top rate of 40% on transfers to the next generation. Our goal is to help you meet all of your estate planning needs and devise an estate plan that works for you and your family and minimizes administrative costs and estate taxes, where applicable.


We also plan for sales or transitions of businesses. Given our attorneys’ strong business and corporate background, we are able to assist with special estate planning techniques for individuals who own their own closely held businesses and corporations. We work with family members and their advisors including CPAs, insurance professionals, financial advisors and corporate attorneys to ensure estate planning strategies are well integrated.

Business owners need to carefully structure their estate plans to allow the orderly succession of their businesses whether it be passing the next business to members of their family or maximizing the business value by the ultimate sale to a third party. Planning may involve amendments to corporate documents and shareholder agreements, entering into buy/sell agreements and LLC operating agreements. The goal is to reserve the business value in continuation of income for family members.

Probate Trust Administration

When a person dies there are several legal and financial matters that need to be addressed. An Executor’s duties includes ensuring that debts and assets of the Estate are managed and distributed in accordance with the decedent’s wishes. We are well aware of the legal and personal challenges our clients face and have successfully assisted many families through the Probate Estate administration and Trust administration process. Executors are required to conduct themselves in the highest duty of good faith and must regularly file a report to either the court or the beneficiaries in carrying out the administration of Estates and Trusts. We help our clients ensure that the Estate is properly probated and administered.

We work closely with families during a time of grief and loss and concentrate on making our clients feel as comfortable as possible by making the process as painless as possible while attending to all the steps necessary to either pass a decedent’s assets via their Wills through probate (called probate administration) or through their Trusts, to the appropriate beneficiaries. If a person dies without a Will, then the property will pass to their heirs in accordance with New Hampshire intestate laws. This is known as intestate distribution (or succession). We also assist client’s fiduciaries in carrying out their duties as an Executor (or Administrator) of the Estate as well as carrying out their duties as Trustee of the Trust. The administration of Probate Estates falls under the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court Probate Division, whereas the administration of Trust is typically not under the jurisdiction of any court.

The probate process usually includes:

  • preparation of Probate Court Petitions, an Inventory and Accounts
  • appointment of the Executor or Administrator
  • collecting and safeguarding of assets
  • payment of debts
  • sale of unwanted real estate and personal property
  • settlement of claims against the estate
  • valuation and inventory of estate property
  • assistance in assembling and preparing income and estate tax returns
  • ultimate distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries or heirs and accounting for all assets distributed

Trust administration for both revocable and irrevocable Trusts can be handled by our estate planning team, which includes attorneys and paralegals who perform many of the accounting and administration functions to keep costs down.

With a dual computerized system for tracking assets, income and expenses, we provide ongoing reports on asset valuation and income to enable Trustees to meet their investment and disposition duties and to keep beneficiaries informed.

Contact a New Hampshire Lawyer for Your Estate Planning and Probate Needs

At Normandin, Cheney & O'Neil, our New Hampshire estate planning and probate attorneys provide comprehensive guidance by drawing upon the knowledge of our many specialized practice groups. By listening to your concerns and offering solutions tailored to your situation, we can create an individualized estate plan in order to achieve your objectives. Based in Laconia, our attorneys serve clients throughout Belknap, Carroll, Grafton, and Merrimack counties, as well as out of state heirs. We also can represent individuals who need a personal injury attorney or representation in family law, criminal defense, real estate, workers’ compensation, Social Security, or corporate law matters. Contact Normandin, Cheney & O'Neil by phone at (603) 524-4380 or online to schedule a consultation.

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