It is traumatic to lose a loved one. Often, the threat of litigation can hang over a family in the midst of grief. Unfortunately, one of the important tasks following a death is to see to their last wishes and the dispersal of their estate. A court may challenge your right to distribute the estate of a next-of-kin if you are named executor in a will. You can consult a probate solicitor to find out where to file a will so that you can obtain probate permission, and what to do if your authority as an estate trustee is questioned.
What is a Probate Lawyer?
Probate lawyers work with executors and beneficiaries of estates to settle their affairs. When all the decedent's assets are in a trust, probate may be avoided. With a trust, transfers of property can be made without court involvement. However, in more complicated cases or unexpected deaths, a probate lawyer may be necessary to navigate the legal process.
What Does a Probate Law Attorney Do?
Upon death, a person's assets must be distributed in accordance with state law and as directed in their will. Probate law lawyers near you assist executors of wills and beneficiaries of estates with all aspects of probate, from identifying assets and beneficiaries to disbursing inheritances and estate assets.
Executors and beneficiaries may seek assistance from a probate lawyer for legal advice with the following tasks:
- Collecting life insurance proceeds
- Asset identification and protection
- Appraising the deceased's real estate
- Payment of debts and bills
- Preparation and filing of all probate court documents
- Satisfying debts and taxes on estates and inheritances
- Dealing with tax issues
- Account management for estates
- Transfer of assets in a decedent's name to the beneficiaries
- Paying all bills and taxes and distributing assets to beneficiaries
When to Hire a Probate Lawyer?
Upon death, the probate court is tasked with dividing and distributing the estate. It involves a lot of paperwork and deadlines. For the surviving members of the estate, a probate lawyer makes everything seamless and straightforward.
Estate planning is often handled by probate lawyers. In complex estates, the client may want to place the asset in a trust to avoid federal estate tax. An estate or probate lawyer is well-versed in trusts and wills.
Preventing Family Disputes
There is often tension among surviving family members when an estate owner dies. Probate lawyers handle the probate process without bias.
Protect Beneficiaries from Lawsuits
A probate lawyer represents beneficiaries and personal representatives in lawsuits. Moreover, they prevent family members from suing each other. A probate lawyer can also challenge the validity of the departed owner's last will.
Manage the decedent's debts
Debt can consume a large portion of the property if not managed properly. Besides taxes, personal loans, and funeral expenses, there are many other expenses to consider.
Beneficiaries are often unfamiliar with the estate's property and paperwork. Probate lawyers are best equipped to handle debts to protect the estate.
How Do I Choose a Probate Attorney?
Start the vetting process when you have several prospective best probate lawyers near you, either through recommendations or by searching. Here are some criteria you can use.
1. Experience & Qualifications
Learn about the educational background and area of expertise of the potential lawyer in the biography. Consider a good attorney with experience in probate, trusts, and estates. Ensure your lawyer has experience.
Investigate the lawyer's office in detail. Check online reviews. Get a variety of opinions to avoid bias. Get to know the lawyer's mastery of probate issues by reading the firm's website and blog.
3. Association membership
Check whether your lawyer is a member of any local or national associations. Ensure the candidate is a member of the bar of association.
4. Other Certifications
Your probate lawyer should be licensed in your country. Additional certifications prove extensive experience. Focus on if the law office is well-versed in probate, estates, and/or trusts.
5. Retention Agreement
Before signing, get a copy of the lawyer's retainer agreement. To understand what to expect, ask your lawyer for details.
6. Unique Needs
A lawyer with specialized skills may be needed depending on your probate requirements. For example, you may have to deal with parties who speak a foreign language. Your lawyer must understand the dialect.
7. Communication Skills
Law firms sometimes use so much professional jargon that their clientele doesn't understand what they're saying. Do not hire someone who cannot explain themselves. The lawyer has to be aware of your inexperience and answer your questions in terms that you understand.
How Much Does the Probate Lawyer Average Cost?
When a loved one dies, we're often overwhelmed with a plethora of tasks that have nothing to do with grieving -- managing finances, planning a funeral, and dealing with the probate legal process. Expenses can quickly pile up.
For many families, hiring an attorney is the most expensive part of the probate process. It typically costs between $3,500 and $7,000 for a simple case to hire a probate attorney. Complicated estates or contentious probates that include litigation, however, are more expensive.
You may choose to work with an attorney or choose other options to reduce the cost of probate if you are familiar with how they charge for their services.
Do Probate Lawyers Usually Charge for Consultations?
If they bill by the hour, probate law attorneys near you typically charge fees between $250 and $310 per hour to handle the estate administration.
Almost one-third of probate lawyers charge a flat fee for probate services.