What Is A Probate Lawyer? (3 Reasons You Need A Probate Attorney)

What Is A Probate Attorney - Probate Lawyers - What Does A Probate Attorney Do - Probate Estate Attorney

Are you looking to hire a probate attorney? 

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • what is a probate attorney 
  • what a probate lawyer does
  • the probate process and how they help you navigate it
  • how to choose the right probate attorney
  • how probate attorneys will charge you
  • questions that our clients ask us

Let’s dig in. 

Table of Contents

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What Is A Probate Lawyer?

A probate lawyer is an attorney who specializes in managing the legal affairs of a deceased person’s estate. 

They play a crucial role in the probate process, which includes:

  • validating the decedent’s will
  • identifying and valuing assets
  • settling outstanding debts and taxes
  • distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries

In addition, probate lawyers represent clients in estate-related disputes, such as:

  • contesting wills
  • addressing conflicts between beneficiaries and executors
  • dealing with issues of undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud 

Their knowledge and expertise ensure that the estate administration process is carried out:

  • effectively
  • fairly
  • in compliance with the law

Let’s talk about what to expect from a probate attorney.

What Does A Probate Lawyer Do?

A probate lawyer assists with the legal process of settling an estate after someone’s death. 

Your probate attorney will:

  • help validate the deceased person’s will
  • appraise assets
  • pay debts and taxes
  • distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries

Probate lawyers can also represent clients in estate disputes, such as:

  • contested wills 
  • issues with the executor

An experienced estate probate lawyer will:

  • ensure the probate process follows the law 
  • the deceased person’s wishes are respected

Here is a list of what a probate lawyer does for you:

  • Collecting life insurance policy proceeds
  • Determining and paying inheritance taxes
  • Calculating and paying estate and income taxes
  • Identifying all estate assets
  • Retitling assets in beneficiaries’ names
  • Opening and managing the estate’s checking account
  • Ordering property appraisals for real property
  • Paying debts and final bills
  • Preparing and filing all court documents
  • Making final distributions after paying bills and taxes
  • Validating the deceased person’s will
  • Representing the estate in probate court
  • Assisting the executor or administrator in their duties
  • Handling disputes between beneficiaries and executors
  • Addressing issues related to undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud
  • Ensuring compliance with local probate laws and regulations
  • Providing guidance on the distribution of assets according to the will or intestacy laws
  • Advising on the establishment of trusts, if necessary
  • Preparing and filing estate tax returns
  • Managing ongoing estate expenses and obligations

Read More: How Long Can You Keep An Estate Open After Death

Validating and Probating Wills

Validating and probating wills involve:

  • confirming the authenticity of a deceased person’s will 
  • ensuring it is executed according to their wishes

For validating and probating wills, a probate lawyer:

  • reviews the will
  • checks for the proper execution of the will
  • files necessary documents with the probate court

The court then appoints an executor or administrator to manage the estate. 

The executor of the estate:

  • distributes assets to beneficiaries
  • pays outstanding debts and taxes
  • handles any disputes that may arise

Read More: How Much Does An Estate Have To Be Worth To Go To Probate?

Reviewing and Interpreting Wills

Probate lawyers review and interpret wills.

This ensures the deceased person’s intentions are clear and legally sound. 

Probate lawyers can help:

  • clarify any ambiguous language 
  • advise on the implications of specific provisions in the will

Read More: How Much Money Can You Inherit Without Paying Taxes On It?

Ensuring Proper Execution of Wills

Probate lawyers ensure that wills are properly executed according to the legal requirements of the jurisdiction. 

This may include:

  • verifying signatures
  • witnessing
  • notarization (depending on the applicable laws)

Filing Necessary Documents with the Probate Court

Probate lawyers assist in filing the required documents with the probate court to initiate the probate process. 

This includes submitting: 

  • the original will
  • a petition for probate
  • other relevant paperwor

Estate Administration

Estate administration is the process of managing and distributing a deceased person’s assets according to their will or applicable laws. 

Estate administration involves:

  • identifying and appraising assets
  • paying debts and taxes
  • distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries 

An executor or administrator is responsible for overseeing estate administration.

This ensures that:

  • the deceased person’s wishes are honored 
  • legal requirements are met

Identifying and Appraising Estate Assets

Probate lawyers help identify and appraise the deceased person’s assets.

The assets that probate lawyers can help with include:

  • real estate
  • personal property
  • bank accounts
  • investments

They ensure that all assets are accounted for and valued correctly.

Managing Estate Bank Accounts and Investments

Probate lawyers may assist in managing the estate’s bank accounts and investments during the probate process. 

This can include:

  • opening estate accounts
  • transferring funds
  • making investment decisions on behalf of the estate

Improper management of estate bank accounts and investments can lead to several consequences for the estate, beneficiaries, and the executor or administrator:

  • Financial Loss: Poor investment choices or failure to monitor accounts can decrease the estate’s value, affecting beneficiaries’ inheritance.
  • Delays In Administration: Mishandling accounts and investments may result in delays in settling the estate, extending the probate process and frustrating beneficiaries.
  • Legal Disputes: Beneficiaries could file legal actions against the executor or administrator if they suspect mismanagement, causing expensive and lengthy litigation.
  • Breach Of Fiduciary Duty: Executors or administrators have a duty to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries. Mismanaging assets can breach this duty, making them potentially liable for the estate’s financial losses.
  • Personal Liability: Executors or administrators may be held personally liable for financial losses due to a breach of fiduciary duty or negligence, possibly requiring compensation to the estate or beneficiaries.
  • Removal Of Executor Or Administrator: In extreme cases, the court may remove and replace an executor or administrator if they fail to fulfill their duties properly.

To avoid these issues, executors and administrators should:

  • manage estate assets diligently
  • seek help from a probate lawyer
  • maintain clear records of financial transactions

Paying Outstanding Debts, Taxes, and Administrative Expenses

Probate lawyers help ensure that the estate’s outstanding debts, taxes, and administrative expenses are paid in a timely manner. 

Your probate lawyer may:

  • negotiate with creditors,
  • prepare and file tax returns
  • advise on any potential tax liabilities

Distributing Remaining Assets to Beneficiaries

Once all debts, taxes, and expenses have been paid, the remaining assets go to the beneficiaries. 

Estate administration attorneys oversee the distribution of the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the will or applicable intestacy laws.

Probate Litigation

Probate litigation is the legal process that addresses disputes arising during the administration of a deceased person’s estate. 

Probate litigation often involves:

  • contested wills
  • disputes between beneficiaries and executors
  • issues related to undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud

Probate litigation aims to:

  • resolve conflicts 
  • ensure that the estate is administered fairly and in accordance with the law

Representing Clients in Contested Wills and Disputes

Probate estate attorneys may represent clients in contested wills and disputes arising during the probate process. 

They help protect their client’s interests and advocate for a fair resolution.

Handling Disputes Between Beneficiaries and Executors

Sometimes there are disputes between beneficiaries and executors.

Probate lawyers can help mediate conflicts and, if necessary, represent their clients in court proceedings.

Addressing Issues of Undue Influence, Lack of Capacity, or Fraud

Probate estate attorneys are skilled in addressing issues of:

  • undue influence
  • lack of capacity
  • fraud related to wills and estate administration

They can investigate potential misconduct and pursue appropriate legal remedies on behalf of their clients.

What Is The Probate Process?

The probate process is the legal procedure that takes place after a person’s death.

It ensures the proper distribution of their assets and the settlement of any outstanding debts or taxes. 

The probate process involves several steps, which can be categorized into three main stages: 

  • initiation of probate
  • estate administration
  • closing of the estate

Initiation of Probate

The initiation of probate begins when a deceased person’s will is submitted to the probate court. 

This stage involves several key tasks:

Filing A Petition With The Probate Court

The process starts by filing a petition with the appropriate probate court.

This is requesting that the probate courts:

  • formally recognize the will 
  • appoint an executor or administrator to handle the estate

Notifying Beneficiaries And Creditors

Once the court has accepted the will, the executor or administrator is responsible for notifying:

  • all beneficiaries named in the will 
  • any known creditors

This ensures that everyone who has a stake in the estate:

  • is aware of the probate process 
  • can take any necessary actions

Appointing An Executor Or Administrator

The court will appoint someone to manage the estate throughout the probate process.

The person who manages the probate process will either be:

  • an executor (if named in the will) 
  • an administrator (if there is no will or the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve)

Estate Administration

During the estate administration stage, the executor or administrator is responsible for:

  • managing the deceased person’s assets 
  • addressing any outstanding debts or obligations

Inventory And Appraisal Of Assets

The executor or administrator must create an inventory of the deceased person’s assets.

This includes:

  • real estate
  • personal property
  • bank accounts
  • investments
  • other valuables

These assets are then appraised to determine their fair market value at the time of death.

Identifying And Notifying Creditors

The executor or administrator is responsible for:

  • identifying all of the deceased person’s creditors 
  • notifying them of the probate process

Creditors typically have a limited time to file claims against the estate for any outstanding debts.

Managing Ongoing Estate Expenses And Obligations

Throughout the probate process, the executor or administrator must manage any ongoing expenses and obligations of the estate.

This includes things like:

  • paying property taxes
  • insurance premiums
  • maintaining real estate

Closing the Estate

By now, all assets have been accounted for and any outstanding debts or taxes have been addressed.

The probate process moves to its final stage: closing the estate.

Final Distribution Of Assets

The executor or administrator distributes the remaining assets:

  • to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will (if there is a will)
  • per the state intestacy laws (if there is no will)

This may involve:

  • transferring real estate deeds
  • distributing personal property
  • liquidating assets to distribute cash

Preparing A Final Accounting

The executor or administrator must prepare a final accounting of the estate.

This will detail all assets, debts, expenses, and distributions that occurred during the probate process. 

This accounting is submitted to the probate court for review and approval.

Obtaining Court Approval And Discharging The Executor

Then, the court will have reviewed and approve the final accounting.

The probate court will issue an order:

  • closing the estate 
  • discharging the executor or administrator from their duties

At this point, the probate process is complete, and the estate is officially settled.

Choosing The Right Probate Lawyer

Selecting the right attorney for probate is essential to:

  • ensure a smooth probate process 
  • protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries

There are several factors to consider when choosing an attorney for probate, including:

  • their experience and expertise
  • communication and rapport
  • fees and billing

Experience and Expertise

Area Of Specialization

Probate lawyers may specialize in different areas, such as:

  • estate administration
  • probate litigation
  • trust law

It is crucial to select a lawyer whose area of expertise aligns with your specific needs. 

A lawyer with extensive experience in estate administration may not be the best choice if you need representation in probate litigation.

Years Of Practice In Probate Law

The number of years a lawyer has been practicing probate law can impact their ability to handle complex estate matters effectively. 

Look for a probate law attorney with a solid track record and experience in handling cases similar to yours.

Familiarity With Local Probate Courts And Procedures

Probate laws and procedures can vary between jurisdictions. 

Choose a probate lawyer familiar with the local probate courts and their specific procedures.

They will likely be more efficient and better equipped to handle your case.

Communication and Rapport

Open And Transparent Communication

Effective communication is vital in any legal matter. 

Choose a probate lawyer who is open and transparent about:

  • the probate process
  • potential challenges
  • the progress of your case

This can help you stay informed and alleviate any concerns you may have.

Responsiveness To Client Inquiries

A probate lawyer should be responsive to your inquiries and keep you updated on the case. 

Prompt responses to your questions can indicate that the probate lawyer:

  • values your time 
  • is committed to your case

Compassionate And Empathetic Approach

Probate matters often involve emotional situations and sensitive family dynamics. 

It is essential to work with a probate lawyer who:

  • understands the emotional challenges 
  • can provide compassionate guidance during this difficult time

Next, let’s talk about how much does a probate lawyer cost.

How Much Does A Probate Lawyer Cost?

Understanding Fee Structures

Probate lawyers may charge fees using different structures, such as:

  • hourly rates
  • flat fees
  • contingency fees

It is crucial to understand:

  • the cost of a probate law attorney 
  • how it will impact the overall cost of the probate process

Requesting An Estimate Of Total Costs

Ask the probate law firm for an estimate of the total costs involved in your case.

Your quote should include the probate lawyer fees and any additional expenses. 

This can help you:

  • budget for the probate process 
  • avoid surprises down the road

Who Pays Probate Attorney Fees?

Probate attorney fees are typically paid from the assets of the deceased person’s estate. 

The executor or administrator is responsible for managing the estate’s finances.

This includes paying for legal services provided by a probate attorney

After the attorney’s fees and other expenses, such as court fees and taxes, are paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the will or state intestacy laws.

What Percentage Does A Lawyer Get For Settling An Estate?

The percentage a lawyer gets for settling an estate can vary depending on factors.

The factors that determine a probate lawyer’s percentage are things like: 

  • the complexity of the estate
  • the probate lawyer’s experience
  • the jurisdiction

In some states, probate attorney fees are determined by a statutory fee schedule.

This is based on a percentage of the estate’s value. 

In these cases, the percentage can range from 1% to 5%.

Or even higher for smaller estates.

FAQs About Probate Lawyers

These are questions our probate attorneys get from our clients. 

Do I Need A Probate Lawyer If There Is No Will?

If there is no will, you may still benefit from hiring a probate lawyer. 

In cases of intestacy, when a person dies without a will, state laws determine how the estate is distributed. 

A probate lawyer can help:

  • navigate the intestacy laws
  • assist with estate administration
  • ensure assets are distributed to the appropriate heirs 
  • resolve any disputes that arise among heirs 
  • represent your interests in probate court if necessary

Why Would You Need A Probate Attorney?

You may need a probate attorney to help navigate the complex legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate. 

A probate attorney assists with:

  • validating the will
  • identifying and valuing assets
  • paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries

They can also represent you in estate-related disputes or issues.

This will ensure the estate is settled efficiently, fairly, and in accordance with the law. 

Their expertise is particularly valuable in cases involving:

  • large estates
  • complex family situations
  • potential legal disputes

Questions To Ask A Probate Attorney

You’ll likely get a free consultation with a probate lawyer about the probate process.

It is essential to have a list of questions to ensure you understand the process and your responsibilities. 

Here are some questions to ask a probate lawyer:

  • What is probate, and is it always necessary?
  • How long does the probate process typically take?
  • What are the different types of probate proceedings?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of an executor or personal representative?
  • How are probate assets and non-probate assets distinguished?
  • What happens if the deceased person did not have a will?
  • How are debts and taxes paid during the probate process?
  • How are beneficiaries notified, and when can they expect to receive their inheritance?
  • What are the possible challenges to a will, and how can they be resolved?
  • What fees are involved in the probate process, and who is responsible for paying them?
  • How can a probate lawyer assist in the process, and what is their fee structure?
  • Are there any ways to avoid or minimize the probate process?
  • What is the process for distributing assets if there are minor beneficiaries?
  • What happens if there is a dispute among beneficiaries or between the beneficiaries and the executor?
  • How do state laws affect the probate process, and are there any specific considerations for my situation?

Who Does A Probate Attorney Represent?

A probate attorney represents various parties involved in a deceased person’s estate administration. 

They may represent:

  • executors or administrators (who manage the estate) 
  • beneficiaries and heirs-at-law (who receive assets)
  • creditors (who seek to collect outstanding debts)

Additionally, they represent clients in estate-related disputes.

And they can assist guardians or conservators of minor or incapacitated beneficiaries. 

The probate lawyer’s role is to:

  • protect their client’s interests 
  • ensure the estate administration process adheres to the law

What Happens If A Will Is Not Filed?

If a will is not filed, the deceased person’s estate will be subject to the intestacy laws of the state where they resided. 

Intestacy laws determine how the estate assets will be distributed among the deceased person’s closest relatives.

These relatives include: 

  • a spouse
  • children
  • other family members

Without a filed will, the deceased person’s intentions and wishes for their estate may not be honored. 

Additionally, the probate process may become more:

  • complex
  • time-consuming
  • costly

The court will need to appoint an administrator to manage the estate.

What Does It Mean To Probate A Will?

To probate a will means to go through the legal process of validating and administering a deceased person’s will. 

This process typically involves:

  • submitting the will to the probate court
  • appointing an executor
  • identifying and appraising the estate’s assets
  • paying outstanding debts and taxes
  • distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the will 

The probate process ensures that:

  • the deceased person’s wishes are carried out 
  • their estate is settled in accordance with the law

What Does An Estate Lawyer Do After Death?

An estate lawyer assists in managing the legal affairs of a deceased person’s estate after death. 

They help with the probate process, which includes:

  • validating the will
  • identifying and appraising assets
  • settling outstanding debts and taxes
  • distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. 

Hire A Probate Attorney

If you need to get help from a probate lawyer, fill out the form below. 

At The Hive Law, we understand the importance of:

  • protecting your hard-earned assets 
  • ensuring your family’s future

We only accommodate a limited number of clients each month.

So don’t miss your opportunity to work with our esteemed estate planning attorneys.

Benefits of our probate services:

  • Tailored solutions to fit your unique needs and goals
  • Expert guidance in navigating complex tax and legal matters
  • Preservation of your wealth for future generations
  • Streamlined asset distribution according to your wishes

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate estate planning:

  • Creditors seizing your assets
  • Lawsuits jeopardizing your family’s financial security
  • Family disputes over inheritance
  • Costly and time-consuming probate processes

Talk soon.

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