Probate can be a complicated and drawn-out process. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to handle probate, a probate attorney may be able to help.
Read the full article to learn what probate is, what is a probate lawyer and their purpose in settling estates.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal proceedings for settling an estate after someone dies. If there is a will, it needs to be validated through the probate process before the estate can be handled. If there is no will, the probate process is needed to determine how to handle the decedent’s assets.
Probate can be avoided if the decedent had all of their assets in a trust. In these cases, management of the trust can be handed over and probate is not needed to settle the estate.
Probate can be a complicated and time-consuming process. To ensure everything is handled correctly and to speed the process along, probate lawyers can be attained.
What Is a Probate Lawyer?
Probate lawyers exist to help navigate probate. They are specialized attorneys for executing wills and settling estates.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
The main purpose of a probate lawyer is to help settle the estate. Within this role, there are several functions that a probate attorney can help you with. Here are some of the responsibilities a probate lawyer can help with:
- Collecting life insurance policies
- Paying inheritance tax
- Handling all estate and income taxes
- Preparing and filing all documents required by a probate court
- Inventorying estate assets
- Helping manage the estate
- Paying the decedent’s debts and final bills
- Getting property appraisals for real estate
- Opening and maintaining the estate’s checking account
- Making asset distributions to beneficiaries
- Retitiling assets in the beneficiary’s name
Do I Need a Lawyer for Probate?
It is not always necessary to obtain a probate lawyer to handle a loved one’s estate. However, you should consider hiring a probate attorney if the estate is large or has complicating factors.
Here are some common reasons to hire a probate lawyer:
- There are complicated or unusual assets in the estate (real estate, artwork, etc.)
- The estate is large
- There are many different types of assets in the estate (life insurance, retirement accounts, etc)
- There are complicating tax factors
- There are many beneficiaries or disputing family members
- The will is being challenged or contested
- There is no will
Probate lawyers are there to help simply and speed up the probate process. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the legal process after a loved one’s death, consider consulting a probate lawyer.
Probate Lawyer When There Is a Will
When the deceased has a will, the role of the probate lawyer is to be an advisor throughout the process. The attorney will help validate the will. This means ensuring that the document is legitimate and was made when the decedent was of sound mind.
After the will has been validated, the probate lawyer should assist the will’s executor with paying taxes and distributing the assets according to the deceased’s estate plan.
Probate Lawyer When There Is No Will
Probate becomes more complicated when there is no valid will. In this case, the estate will be divided according to the state’s probate laws where the estate is established. The probate attorney should help the estate administrator distribute assets and pay debts according to state laws.
What Are the Differences Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Lawyer?
Probate lawyers are also referred to as estate lawyers. They serve the same function and handle the same types of cases. These types of lawyers navigate probate and settle estates.
The Cost to Hire a Probate Lawyer
The cost to hire a probate attorney depends on the size of the estate and the state in which the probate will resides. A probate attorney usually uses one of the following methods to charge for their services:
- A flat fee
- Hourly rates
- Payment by the percentage of the estate value
To find the estimated cost to hire a probate lawyer, find the average cost of attorneys handling similar-sized estates in your area. For a more accurate estimate, find the rates for the firms you are considering.
Have Questions About Working with a Probate Lawyer?
If you have any questions about working with a probate lawyer, give us a call. We’re here to answer your questions about the probate process and how a lawyer can help. Call us at 800-840-1998 today.