What does a probate lawyer do? Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this common question.
The true answer depends on what you need help with and where the lawyer would be able to assist you. These types of lawyers are specialized to be able to perform a number of tasks involved with the probate process on your behalf.
We've put together this guide to help you understand more about what their role is and why it is important, so make sure you keep reading below to find out more.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
When a person passes away, they leave behind a number of assets, such as their personal belongings, a home, money, etc. Most people appoint an executor of will to be in charge of disbursing these assets to any other beneficiaries.
This process can often be complicated and confusing. That's where a probate lawyer comes in.
This type of lawyer is well versed in all the probate laws in your state, and their job is to guide the executor of will through the process and help with any difficult steps.
Some of the jobs they might take care of including the following:
- Appraising the property of the person who passed away
- Securing all that person's assets
- Finding out how much (if any) estate taxes are owed
- Handling the proceeds from life insurance
- Filling out any necessary documents
If the person who passed away had any debt or bills they failed to pay, a probate lawyer will also advise the executor of will on the best way to handle these issues.
What Happens If There Was No Will?
If someone dies without a will, all their assets must be dispersed according to intestacy laws. In other words, the state will distribute the assets—regardless of what the person may have wanted.
For cases like these, you can hire a probate lawyer to help the administrator of the estate (which is kind of like the executor of will) through the process. They may still be able to perform all the same jobs, but they may be limited by the intestacy laws.
This is one of the reasons it's so important to have a will (even if you're young and healthy). Otherwise, your assets may not go to the people you want.
When Should You Hire a Probate Lawyer?
The specific process of probate varies depending on the sate. Some states have a simple probate process, so you may be able to get through it on your own.
However, in most cases, it's better to hire a probate lawyer.
Since they know the probate laws inside and out, a lawyer will be able to guide you through the steps quickly and efficiently. They'll also be able to take care of troublesome paperwork and ensure you don't make any mistakes that can turn into bigger problems later.
Most importantly, however, hiring a probate lawyer will help you focus on what really matters, which is mourning your loved one who passed away and being with family and friends.
Questions You Should Ask a Probate Lawyer Before Hiring
If you're getting ready to hire a probate lawyer, you should make sure you get the answers to these questions before you hand over any money. This will ensure you get an experienced lawyer who knows what they're doing.
"Have You Worked on Cases Similar to Mine?"
Any probate lawyer you work with should have at least several years of experience. If your case is complicated, you should also make sure they have worked in similar circumstances. This way you know they can handle any problems that come up along the way.
"Are There Any Issues I Should Expect With My Case?"
It can be difficult to predict if anything will go wrong during any type of case, but a probate lawyer should be able to review your case and point out any small issues that could turn into more pressing concerns. They should also be able to recommend solutions to help you solve those problems.
"Do I Need to Know About Any Deadlines?"
There may be specific deadlines you need to meet when submitting claims or filling out paperwork. Ask your lawyer about these dates so you know what has to be done by what time.
"How Long Will the Probate Process Take?"
Again, this is a difficult question to answer. Every case takes a different about of time depending on the circumstances. A probate lawyer should be able to give you a rough estimate, however, and they should keep you up to date with everything that happens as it goes on.
"How Much Do You Charge?"
Make sure you understand how much the lawyer charges before you hire them. You should also ask about any other fees you'll be responsible for so you aren't surprised by a large bill later.
Don't focus on the price too much.
You don't want to hire the cheapest probate lawyer you can find simply because they're the cheapest. Remember, you get what you pay for. Investing more money into a lawyer that has the right experience is well worth the cost.
Hiring a Probate Lawyer That Can Help You
So, what does a probate lawyer do? In short, they help you through the process of distributing someone's assets after they pass away.
Not sure where to find good probate lawyers in your area? Our team at De Bruin Law Firm can help you with any of your probate needs.
Don't hesitate to give us a call today.