There’s an old saying that goes, “You can’t take your riches with you when you die”. But, you can definitely leave them behind for your loved ones. With the help of a probate lawyer, you can distribute your assets and pay your debts, with or without a will. So, what does a probate lawyer do?
The Job of a Probate Lawyer
A probate lawyer also called an estate or trust lawyer, is a member of the legal profession who practices in the area of estate planning and trusts. They help with administering estates (or “administrators,” if there isn’t a will). They also give advice on wills and living trusts to their clients.
The Job of a probate lawyer usually depends on whether or not the client has a drafted will before they passed away.
If the individual has a will
An individual who dies with a will may need to hire an attorney in order for the estate’s executor or beneficiary to have legal advice. This can be due to issues such as duress (being pressured into signing something). A person suffering from dementia could easily fall prey to this kind of coercion when trying to make decisions about their last wishes.
Wills can be challenged for a few different reasons but most of them go through probate without any issues.
If there’s no will
If you don’t leave a will, your property is divided according to the laws of the State where it’s located. For example, in some states, married couples can’t disinherit their spouses and if they do have children from another marriage those kids receive part or all of an estate regardless of what a person might want.
When a loved one passes away, it’s important to know what the law says about who gets their property. In some cases, if your state has an intestacy statute (a set of laws that divides up property when someone dies without leaving a will) you might have more options than just going through probate court – but not always.
In order for someone else in your family (other than you) to become executor or administer over your loved one’s case after they pass away, those individuals need official “Renunciations.” The attorney should help them file these statements legally through the court before taking action further.
The Role of a Probate Lawyer
The following tasks are expected from a probate lawyer when they are advising administrator/executor:
- Having the decedent’s assets appraised
- Giving advice on how to settle the decedent’s bills or how to pay debts
- Managing and collecting the life insurance proceeds
- Preparing the documents needed by the probate court
- Securing all the assets of the decedent
- Checking if there are taxes owed
Do you need a Probate Lawyer?
The answer is no. There are times where you would need a probate lawyer but that’s not always the case. They are helpful in getting you through a probate case, but it depends on how large the estate is to know if you need one or not.
It’s always good to ask yourself the following questions before getting a probate lawyer:
- Is the probate process in your state easy enough for you?
- Are the family members in the will getting along well?
- Is there enough money in the estate to settle bills or debts?
- What are the properties in the estate?
- Is it fine to distribute the properties without probate?
The Cost of Hiring a Probate Lawyer
Probate lawyers typically charge using these methods:
- Hourly pay
- Flat Fees
- Percentage of the estate’s value
The amount of the fees can also depend on the location where the lawyer practices.
Difference between Probate and Estate Planning Lawyer
Generally, both a probate lawyer and an estate planning lawyer work in the same area of law. The main difference that they both have is that a probate attorney handles estate administration after someone has passed away.
On the other hand, an estate planning attorney works with clients that are still alive and helps them plan how they want their assets to be distributed after they pass. They help their clients by drafting a will, preparing trusts, and other documents that are relevant to those.
Questions you should ask
Before deciding on a lawyer who will handle your probate case, take time to try and ask them these questions:
- Is probate law their specialty?
- How would they want to be compensated?
- How do they plan to handle your probate case?
- What are the processes involved?
- Are they going to handle your case personally?
It’s very important to consider these things before diving in because it’s very important to know that they will be able to help you.