A probate attorney (also known as an estate attorney) is a lawyer who specializes in probating the will (see “What is the Probate Process”) and advises personal representatives and beneficiaries on how to settle the final affairs of the deceased. This type of attorney may also specialize in family or estate law or estate planning and will be able to assist family members of the deceased with the probate process.
A probate attorney is not required in all instances of probating a will. For example, if the will is relatively straightforward and the estate is small, you can submit the last will and testament directly to the relevant state court (probate court) for probating. However, a licensed attorney may be a good option to simply give you peace of mind to ensure the process is initiated correctly.
What does a Probate Attorney Do?
Probate is the legal process of authenticating the last will and testament of a deceased. It can be a long and expensive process and includes locating and determining the value of the deceased’s assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to their beneficiaries. Even if there is no will, the probate process is still required to pay final bills and distribute the deceased’s estate. For a complicated estate, this process can take several years to complete.
The probate attorney can help by serving as a guide to the family of the deceased as they go through the probate process. They will also prepare and file the last will and testament, along with any required documents with the local court.
The personal representative (or executor or administrator) will be able to consult a probate attorney on any issues or questions they may have if any, as well as keep the legal side of the probate process moving forward. A probate attorney will also be able to tell you whether there are any estate taxes owed.
In the event that the probate process is complicated or the estate of the deceased is large or complex (by having living trusts, pour-over trusts, life insurance products, or other different legal entities or financial products), it is recommended that you hire a probate attorney as they will be able to guide the personal representatives and/or heirs regarding their options and rights.
The following are some of the steps the probate attorney may have to handle during the probate process:
- Identity and value assets
- Prepare an inventory of assets and a formal accounting
- Identify and notify all possible heirs
- Assess the validity of claims against the estate
- Publish legal notices
- Manage real estate
- Apply to the court to liquidate and distribute assets
- File and pay any federal income, estate, gift taxes
- Object to improper claims
- Defend against lawsuits brought by creditors
- Pay administrative expenses
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries
- Close the Probate Case
Where to Find a Probate Attorney?
When searching for an attorney, asking friends or family for a recommendation is usually a good place to start. If you aren’t able to find a recommendation, then another option is to review our legal services options or browse an online attorney finder.
Remember to ask an attorney how much they charge before agreeing to their services. You should always require a signed agreement that outlines exactly the work they are being hired to perform and how much those services will cost before commencing work. A reputable and trustworthy attorney will be happy to put everything down in an agreement.
A probate attorney will help guide a family or a personal representative through the probate process. They will file the required documents and represent individual heirs or the estate itself in a dispute over the estate or a last will and testament. Hiring a probate attorney is like hiring any other service provider and any work should be agreed to before in writing.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.