Will You Need A Probate Lawyer? And Other Questions Answered

There are so many possessions that have to be dealt with upon a person’s death. The deceased person's bank accounts, credit cards, property, vehicles, debt, jewelry, everything has to be accounted for and properly distributed to the heirs of his or her estate. A probate lawyer can be a great help to a surviving family in grief when it is time to deal with the legal ramification of property, debt, and possession post-mortem.

Will or No Will

A decedent is a person who has died. An executor is a rightful heir and decision maker for the estate of the decedent. An administrator is the person in charge of the affairs of the decedent estate when there was no will drafted. If a living will was established, the probate process will be much less painful than if there was no will.

When someone dies with a will, the estate or probate lawyer can be contracted to advise the heirs on their legal rights and how the probate process works. The lawyer should be able to verify critical facts, for instance, ensuring that the deceased was not under duress at the time that he or she drafted the living will.

Intestate is the status of a deceased person that did not have a signed will for the surviving family members, heirs, and attorneys to use in probate. Each state has its own intestacy laws regarding property, no matter what the deceased wishes. Typically, under most states' intestacy laws, the surviving spouse receives all property and assets.

Other family members may hire a trust lawyer to contest this if the spouse was estranged or not deemed fit to heir these possessions. Without contest, whether the administrator of the estate hires a lawyer or not, the assets and property will be distributed according to the particular state law.

Without a living will, an estate administrator will need to procure renunciations from other proposed heirs to the estate. These renunciations are agreements from the other heirs that they legally release their rights to administer to the estate, and the administrator will carry on the business of the estate solely and fairly. An administrator may also choose to hire a lawyer at this stage to file their renunciation statements with the state probate court. From here a lawyer will also assist with the administration of estate probate processes like securing and appraising property, paying debts, clearing debts, managing estate funds, etc.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process of distributing assets and property to the descendants of the deceased. Part of the probate process is clearing debt, paying taxes and managing liquid assets on behalf of the estate, the estate heirs and beneficiaries. The more valuable an estate is the more likely you are to have a probate lawyer allocate those estate possessions.

What Is a Probate Lawyer?

A probate lawyer is an attorney that handles estate planning, wills, and legal manners concerning an estate of a deceased person.

When to Use a Probate Lawyer?

Sometimes things get messy in probate, especially with large estates. A good estate lawyer can clean up that mess and protect the rightful heirs. Many people are not aware of how many claims are made in probate court against any estate. Sometimes creditors are not as forgiving as one would expect in times of death and they have the legal right to file a claim against an estate to recuperate the entirety of their debt. These things are foreign to most layperson so the administration of a trust lawyer is advised in those instances. The goal of the heirs and the estate lawyer should be to fulfill the wishes of the deceased.

For the Living

While living, you should hire an estate lawyer to draft a legal will according to your specifications. This will help your heirs when you become a decedent by creating a legal document permissible in probate court that is unlikely to be challenged. Sometimes family members are not all on one accord, a lawyer can reduce the friction of having to decide who gets what when it is time to divide the family possessions.

Probate is usually a slow process. With so many possessions to account for, document, and assess, the process can last well over a year. An effective lawyer will alleviate all the obstacles that stand in the way of the decedent wishes being carried out in probate court.

Many questions will arise during the probate process and the court clerks are not always as helpful as one would like them to be. When you have a probate lawyer, they will get all of your questions answered, either from their experience in the field or by leveraging their relationship with the court and its clerks to offer you the answers you seek. A good lawyer will walk you through the details of the process so he or she is sure you understand all things occurring during the probate process.

All the filing and technical details will be the lawyer's job to inform and explain to you, while handling them for you. Mistakes get made and you do not want to extend the long and stressful probate process by making those mistakes in your time of grief. You are paying the lawyer to file all the proper paperwork without making the mistakes that cost time and resources.

As an Executor

As an executor or administrator of an estate you have to continue to handle your personal business while making sure the business of the decedent does not interfere with the probate process. Your lawyer will be used in this instant to pay bills, settle debt, and clear taxes. According to probate laws, an estate has a designated amount of time to settle debt. Your lawyer should ensure that you meet all these deadlines.

Your lawyer will also protect you as an executor or administrator of an estate from getting sued by your fellow beneficiaries. A lawyer cannot prevent a lawsuit directly, but by making sure you are on top of the details in the probate process, the chances of getting served with a lawsuit are minimal.


How to Hire a Probate Lawyer

  • When hiring a service as vital to your family as a probate lawyer, you should first ask friends and family for a referral
  • If you do not get a contact from your circle of influence you should do a google search and only value sites that offer customer testimonials
  • Google itself has a 5 star system and comments from customers, however, Google is not usually abundant with ratings
  • Facebook pages: If you are very precocious you can message some of the people that left reviews and ask them about their experience with the particular lawyer
  • Avvo is also a quality resource in your search for a qualified and experienced probate lawyer


How to Avoid Probate

In some rare occasions you can plan your estate to prevent having to go through the probate process. In many instances this will require an estate or trust lawyer. However, these options are not available for the heirs of an estate. If you want to save your family time, money, and energy, choose from the list below when completing your estate planning:

  • Make all of your property joint ownership- when a person dies the property will automatically transfer to joint owners of property
  • Assign your beneficiaries for assets such as life insurance, bank accounts, retirement funds, and investments
  • Obtain a living trust, which protects property from having to enter into probate and passes it directly to whoever you designate


Conclusion

The probate process can be long, drawn out, and emotionally draining. You can outsource this work to a lawyer who will provide experienced counsel and carry out your wishes concerning your estate. A probate lawyer is not a necessity, however, a probate lawyer can save you a lot of time in probate court and take a load of stress from your shoulders.

Whether you are estate planning for your family after you are no longer here or if you are the executor of an estate and want to make sure you do right by your family, it is a good call to consult with a probate lawyer. Some estate lawyers can give you enough guidance in one consultation for you to be able to hire them or have the steps to plan your will, estate, or distribute the assets to your family without using legal representation. Every family is different, and each has its own nuances.

Take these into account and decide whether you want to deal with probate on your own or hire that work out to a trained and certified professional. The fees associated with hiring a competent and experienced lawyer can greatly outweigh the time and energy the probate lawyer saves you. Look through our website for more tips on hiring lawyers for your specific needs.