Reasons to hire a probate attorney for your loved one’s estate
A probate lawyer can expedite the probate process, thanks to their experience and legal knowledge, to efficiently close your loved one’s estate.
In addition to preparing all documents needed for probate court, a lawyer can resolve issues about the legal validity of the will, help you deal with creditors, handle tax issues, and more.
You can choose to delegate the lion’s share of probate tasks to a lawyer, or assign them specific tasks only, through “limited representation” or “unbundled services.”
Keep in mind, probate lawyers are paid with funds from the estate, so make sure their services are valued by the beneficiaries.
If you are in charge of managing your loved one’s estate, you might have some questions about the probate process and what a probate lawyer can do for you.
Probate can be confusing, especially if you’ve never been through it before. It is the legal process to settle an estate when someone dies: everything from authenticating the will in court and accounting for all assets and debts to transferring the estate’s assets to beneficiaries.
If you are the executor or administrator of the estate, hiring an attorney can be a smart move—especially if there are any questions about the validity of the will, debt issues with inherited property, or conflicts between heirs.
But it’s important to get clarity on exactly what a probate lawyer can and cannot do.
By understanding the specifics of their role, you can make sure that you and your lawyer coordinate your efforts to efficiently close the probate process.
What is a probate lawyer?
Since every estate is different, probate lawyers usually offer different tiers of service depending on your needs. You can also opt for a full-service representation model, meaning that they will take over the majority of tasks for you, including things you can do yourself, such as making phone calls to the bank to make transfers.
You can also opt for what’s called “limited representation” or “unbundled services,” which means that you can pick and choose what the lawyer takes care of for you.
In other words, hiring a probate lawyer does not mean that you simply hand off all the legwork to your attorney. Rather, you agree on what you would like assistance with, and what you feel comfortable doing yourself.
Whichever level of service you choose, make sure the beneficiaries are on board for hiring a probate lawyer, however, since they are paid with funds from the estate.
What can a probate lawyer take care of?
When you’re winding up an estate, there is a whole range of tasks that need to be done. The probate lawyer’s job is to guide you through the probate process and efficiently close your loved one’s estate, and make sure that your loved one’s assets are successfully distributed to the correct beneficiaries.
Again, not all probate lawyers offer the same uniform service, but below is a list of things that most probate attorneys will cover for you:
Appear in court with you to file the will and prepare all documents needed for probate court
Act as the local estate representative, if the executor lives out of state
Collect life insurance proceeds, if applicable
Identify and secure estate assets
Obtain appraisals for your loved one’s assets and real property
Assist you with paying off any outstanding debts
Take care of any tax issues
Manage the estate checking account
Distribute assets to the appropriate beneficiaries
Make sure all bills, debts, and taxes have been paid
When the probate is completely closed, then the probate attorney’s job is done. The above description conforms more to what full-service representation by a probate lawyer would look like, but you can often agree with your lawyer to choose their representation “a la carte,” hiring their help only for some of the above-mentioned tasks and not others.
The choice is yours, but make sure that if you opt for limited representation, you know exactly what is expected of you as the executor or administrator of the estate. This can seem complicated, but a good lawyer will make it clear for you—and will put it in writing, to save headaches and arguments later.
What does a probate lawyer not do?
While a probate lawyer is there to assist you with legal obligations, it’s important to remember that even with full representation, you as the executor or administrator are still responsible for a good amount of probate legwork.
For example, you will likely still need to make phone calls and write emails to close your loved one’s accounts, take inventory of your loved one’s belongings, communicate with beneficiaries, and order copies of the death certificate.
Even with full representation, you as the executor or administrator are still responsible for a good amount of probate legwork.
While the probate lawyer can come to court with you when you have a hearing, in most cases, you will also be responsible for the initial act of filing the will in state probate court. However, some lawyers cover things that others will not, and vice versa, so it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what your probate lawyer will take care of, and what is still your responsibility.
Knowing what to expect from your probate lawyer will make it easier for you and your family to feel confident that you’ve got all your bases covered, and that you are carrying out your loved one’s final wishes exactly as they would have wanted ●
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