Do You Need a Lawyer for Probate?

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What Is a Probate Attorney?

A probate attorney, also known as an estate attorney, is an attorney who offers legal counsel and assistance to the personal representative or executor of an estate throughout the probate process.

What Does a Probate Attorney Do?

A probate attorney especially gives legal advice regarding the estate administration. To begin, the attorney role is to differ based on whether the deceased had a will or if they died intestate (without a will).

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?

Depending on your state there are three types of fee arrangements. A probate attorney may charge you by the hour, on a flat-fee basis, or they may ask for a percentage of the estate. For instance, in California, an Orange County probate attorney can collect a percentage of the value of the estate. How complicated the case is will also factor into how much an attorney will charge you.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Probate?

A state-licensed probate attorney serves as an advisor for the executor and beneficiaries. Their assistance is invaluable. A probate attorney can also assist you in the post-death administration of a loved one’s estate even if it does not need to be administered through the probate court. To determine whether you need a probate lawyer you may consider a few questions like:

  • How complicated are your state laws?
  • What type of Estate Plan did the decedent set up?
  • Did they have a Will? A Trust? Both? Nothing at all?
  • What is the size of the estate?
  • Are there any contentious beneficiary relationships?
  • How complicated are the assets and beneficiary designations?

Questions to Ask a Probate Attorney

Before hiring an attorney to navigate you through the probate process make sure to ask the right questions such as:

  • Is probate necessary in my case?
  • Do you have experience in cases similar to mine?
  • What can I expect from the probate process?
  • Are there any potential obstacles to be aware of?
  • What is the documentation process?
  • What assets are subject to probate?
  • What are the executor’s legal duties?

The Probate Process

The probate process will vary if whether the deceased had a will or if they died intestate (without a will). If you have a will, this usually begins with the authentication of your will and formal appointment of your executor. However, if you die without a will, this process often starts with the state naming a personal representative (or administrator) for you. In both cases, the probate court will be in charge of supervising how the property is distributed. The basic steps of the probate process are:

  1. Petition the court to become the legal representative (executor or administrator)
  2. Notify heirs and creditors of the opening of an estate
  3. Change legal ownership of assets from the deceased to the estate
  4. Pay funeral expenses, taxes, and debts
  5. Distribute remaining assets to heirs
  6. Notify the court of your actions and request the estate be closed

How Long Do Probate Proceedings Take?

Probate is a complicated process that can take months to complete or even years in some cases, so it is essential to take the necessary precautions before moving. The actual process varies largely by state.

How Evolution Tax and Legal Can Help With Probate

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a painful process with much uncertainty. If you are not sure you need an attorney, you can always come in for a consultation to discuss your situation. Our team can help guide you through the legal process. We will make sure your probate case proceeds effortlessly through all the necessary steps to quickly distribute the estate at the conclusion of the case. Please get in touch with Evolution Tax and Legal if you’d like to understand the next steps beforehand.