When a person passes away, in addition to the grief, there are many other things that come with that loss. One of those things is handling the estate and, if need be, going into probate.
When this happens, some people wonder whether they need a lawyer to help get them through the process. While a lawyer isn’t necessary every time, there are certain situations in which hiring a lawyer is a very good idea.
Sure, their fees will cut into the estate, but some things are worth paying for—especially if they take some stress away from the surviving family members who are in pain and grieving an unimaginable loss.
There are several clear signals that you should consider hiring a lawyer, to save time and costly mistakes through the probate process.
If the will is contested
Sometimes, even if a will is deemed valid, there are beneficiaries who don’t like what’s in it. Because of this, they contest the will in the hopes of proving that it’s invalid or getting a bigger piece of the estate than the will says they’re supposed to get.
Naturally, this process can get messy and cause drama, and even rifts, among the beneficiaries. A lawyer can handle the legal end of this, but can also work as a mediator—something that is difficult for another family member to do.
If the executor is out of state
If the person who was appointed executor of the will lives out of state, a probate lawyer can really help.
Although the executor will be expected to do their best, coming into town when they can to handle the responsibilities that come with being an executor, having an in-state lawyer can make things far easier on the executor.
If the estate isn’t big enough to settle existing debts
Some people pass away leaving mountains of money and assets, while others pass away leaving mountains of debt.
If the estate can’t pay the debts it owes, you definitely want to hire a lawyer to help you figure out how to pay those debts off. Whatever you do, don’t reach into your own pocket for them.
If there are common assets
Do you sell the business to the living partners or have someone take over the place that your loved one left behind? These are exactly the type of things for a legal expert to figure out and handle.
If the estate owes federal estate taxes
Not every estate is required to pay federal estate taxes. It’s only if the estate is large enough that this is necessary.
Having a lawyer guide you through this process is going to be beneficial for you and all the beneficiaries.
If there are assets that can be taken care of out of probate
Some assets can be transferred out of probate. While that can seem like one less thing to worry about, it really isn’t.
Assets like joint tenancy with the right of survivorship or any assets in which the person who passed away was named the beneficiary can be moved out of probate. This scenario needs a lawyer.
If there are legal claims against the estate
When someone passes away, people may try to take advantage of the situation—and not just beneficiaries contesting the will. A lawyer can protect you against any possible legal claims that come your way.
If you want to get through probate sooner rather than later
Depending on the size of the estate and the complexities involved, probate can last months or even years.
Having a lawyer who knows exactly what they’re doing every step of the way can make the probate process not only run more smoothly, but speed things up a bit too because of their expert-level knowledge.
The sooner probate is finished, the sooner the entire family can move on and focus on grieving their loss and starting a new life ●
First steps for an executor
You've been named the executor—now what? After finding and reading the will, you will next have to make sure it’s valid, share its contents with your family and any others named in the will, and finally file it with a special court called probate court.8 min read
How to resolve family inheritance conflicts
Inheritance issues can cause conflict among families, but there are a few things to keep in mind that can help your family navigate these challenges.6 min read
All you need to know about being an executor
Being the executor of an estate comes with a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. Make sure you are up for a time-consuming challenge before taking it on.8 min read