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THE PROBATE PROCESS AND CAMP LEJEUNE CLAIMS

The attorneys at Blalock, LLC field many questions about the probate process and why a probate filing is necessary.  Although not intended as specific legal advice, below are some informational notes that may be helpful if you are a family member of a deceased veteran. 

Sadly, many of our veteran clients have not survived the toxic environmental hazards at Camp Lejeune.  For those that have died because of their service at Camp Lejeune, the claim must be filed as a “wrongful death” action.   Every wrongful death action requires a properly appointed representative and cannot be filed without the probate court appointed representative. 

The appointed representative plays an important role and has the authority to sign the Administrative Claim Form. This form is filed with the Navy Tort Claims Unit on behalf of the deceased estate and begins the claims process.  Failure to follow the probate court process will result in the Administrative Claim being rejected by the Department of the Navy Tort Claims Unit and prevent the eventual filing of a lawsuit. 

There are several possible scenarios in which a claim will require a duly appointed representative:

If a deceased client left a Will naming an Executor but the Will was never probated, an estate would need to be opened to probate the Will and have the Executor/Executrix legally appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

If a deceased client did not leave a Will (died “intestate”), an estate would need to be opened and a personal representative appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

If a deceased client left a Will that has been previously probated and an Executor or Administrator was appointed, but the estate has since been closed, then an estate would need to be reopened and updated with current letters of authority obtained from the probate court.

If claimant passed away after filing an Administrative Claim, but before adjudication of the claim, then an estate would need to be opened to have an estate representative legally appointed. In addition, the Administrative Claim Form will need to be amended to reflect a new agent for the claim and to add “wrongful death” to the claim.

If a lawsuit is eventually required, the lawsuit can only be filed as a wrongful death claim by the duly appointed representative. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have specific questions concerning the probate process. We are honored to represent veterans with their Camp Lejeune claims.   

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