It is traumatic to lose a loved one. However, there is no need for grieving people to deal with complications or confusion about the deceased’s assets and the court system. They can turn to lawyers who specialize in probate (proving a will is valid) laws and are highly qualified and experienced to assist you in applying for probate of a decedent’s will.
After you hire an attorney, you need to get a certificate of appointment of estate trustee from the probate court to show the probate lawyer has the right to execute distributing wills and estates to beneficiaries.
It is possible to challenge your legal right to distribute a next-of-kin’s estate even if you are the executor of a will. You can ask a probate lawyer for advice on where to bring a will so it can be probated and how to proceed if someone questions your legal authority.
What Is a Probate Lawyer?
Probate lawyers assist executors of wills and beneficiaries of estates in the probate process from identifying estate assets and beneficiaries to distributing the assets. If all the decedent’s assets are in a trust, it’s sometimes possible to avoid probate. A trust allows property transfers to be handled outside of court and legal proceedings.
What Does a Probate Law Attorney Do?
A North Carolina probate law attorney can assist an executor and beneficiaries with the following tasks during the probate process:
Collecting the proceeds of life insurance policies
Identification and protection of estate assets
Appraising the decedent’s real estate
Paying bills and debts
Preparing and filing all court-required documents
Establishing whether any estate or inheritance taxes are due, and making sure the estate pays them
Review and taking care of tax issues
Maintaining the estate’s checking account
Transferring assets to the appropriate beneficiaries in the name of the deceased
Disbursing assets to beneficiaries once all bills and taxes have been paid
When to Hire a Probate Lawyer in North Carolina?
If you are managing the estate of a deceased person, you may have questions. If you are questioning the validity of the will, the estate is large and complex, or the monetary value is high, you should hire a probate lawyer right away or the lawyer who helped the decedent write the will if they specialize in probate. A probate attorney can also provide you with legal advice should you need it.
How Do I Choose a Probate Attorney in North Carolina?
You can dive right into the nuts and bolts of probate proceedings when you meet with a lawyer you’re considering hiring. Lawyers who handle a lot of probates usually have a preferred method of working and often start asking for documents and information immediately.
Ask as many questions as you can before hiring. If you intend to talk to multiple lawyers before hiring one for estate work, inform the attorney that you will ask them all the same questions, such as these:
How many probate clients cases have you handled?
To keep fees low, I plan to handle much of the probate work myself. Is that OK with you?
Is your work charged by the hour, a flat rate, or some other method?
Does a law firm paralegal do some of the work at a reduced rate?
Could your law office prepare the deceased’s and the estate’s final tax returns?
What is the average time I can expect to go through probate?
Do you have an idea of how much it will cost?
In the event of a large estate, the complexity of the case is higher if you anticipate paying state or federal estate taxes. Here are some specific questions to ask:
Will you prepare state or federal estate tax returns if they are required?
Have you prepared any estate tax returns?
The answers you receive from different people may surprise you.
What Is the Probate Lawyer’s Average Cost North Carolina?
Probate attorneys in North Carolina are typically more expensive than other options. They might be worth the extra money, especially if the will is complicated or the probate becomes confusing.
We are often faced with many tasks after a loved one passes away (dealing with finances, planning a funeral, and the probate process) that have nothing to do with grieving. Financial burdens can quickly mount.
Probate attorneys are often the most expensive part of the process for many families. Probate attorneys charge anywhere between $3500 and $7000 for a simple case. Probate costs are higher for complicated or contentious estates and probates involving estate litigation.
Depending on how they charge for their services, you may choose to work with an attorney or choose other options to reduce the cost of probate.
Do Probate Attorneys Usually Charge for Consultations?
An estate administrator usually charges $250 to $310 per hour if they bill by the hour to handle the estate administration. Nearly one-third of all probate lawyers charge a flat fee for their services.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a probate court work?
A probate court validates a deceased’s last will and testament as genuine, and you are appointed as the estate and probate trustee. Any executor should consider going to probate court if there is a will.
How soon should I apply to probate court?
According to probate law, executors must apply to the court if a deceased person:
Owned real estate, either on their own or as tenants in common
Has cars, motorbikes, RVs, trucks, boats, or trailers
Owned a business without a succession plan
Holds substantial bank accounts not held jointly with others
Has a bank, creditors, or investment company demanding proof of the executor’s legal authority.
Is it possible to bypass probate?
Probate is not necessary for all wills. Often, assets such as life insurance policies, stocks, and bonds, retirement plans, and other financial assets can transfer without probate court approval.