Do i need a Probate Lawyer – 7 Reasons why you should hire a Probate Attorney
What Do Probate Lawyers Do?
When a loved one dies, you will be feeling various emotions. Because of this, it may be difficult for you to think as clearly as necessary in the days that follow. This may be especially true if you are involved in the probate process, which will include being able to settle debts of the estate, distribute assets to beneficiaries, and many other tasks. If you try to do this alone, you will quickly become overwhelmed with the numerous details. Therefore, it is always best to enlist the services of an experienced probate lawyer. By doing so, you will receive legal guidance from an attorney who specializes in estate planning and the probate process. While there are many ways an attorney experienced in these matters can help, here are seven vital ways your lawyer can help make your life easier after a loved one’s death.
What is a Probate Lawyer?
These lawyers, who are also called trust lawyers or estate lawyers, handle many important tasks for their clients upon the passing of a loved one. First and foremost, their main task is to help an executor of the estate complete the probate process with few if any difficulties or mistakes. If a loved one died without a will, the person placed in charge of the estate will be known as the administrator. In some cases, the lawyer will actually serve as the executor or administrator of the estate. In addition, the attorney can also help with other areas associated with estate planning, such as drafting living trusts and wills or providing advice on questions about power of attorney. Should you have any questions regarding the probate process and how it may affect your loved one’s estate, never hesitate to consult with an attorney whose advice you trust.
Collect and Manage Life Insurance Proceeds
When your loved one dies, one of the first things that will happen will be the paying of benefits from any life insurance policies to beneficiaries. While this may sound simple enough, it is often anything but that. Since there may be multiple life insurance policies held by the deceased, collecting and managing these proceeds can be complex and take a great amount of time. In addition, should there be any questions or conflicts along the way, your probate lawyer can help solve whatever problems may arise.
Gaining Appraisal of Decedent’s Property
Before assets can be properly distributed to beneficiaries, probate court will require an appraisal be done on the decedent’s property. Since it is likely the executor or administrator will have little idea as to the value of real estate and other assets associated with the estate, this appraisal will also be important in terms of paying estate taxes, since the taxes owed will need to be based on an accurate determination of the property’s value.
Finding and Securing All Assets of Decedent
Depending upon the size and scope of the decedent’s estate, a probate lawyer can be instrumental in helping an executor or administrator find and secure all assets linked to the estate. This can be a far more difficult process than it sounds, since the deceased may have had multiple bank accounts, real estate in different parts of the nation or world, stocks and other similar investments, and many other assets. In addition, if no will was written prior to death, there will likely be multiple individuals laying claim to parts of the estate, and possibly to specific assets. Therefore, it is crucial all assets be not only located, but also secured to ensure proper distribution of the estate.
Paying Decedent’s Bills and Settling Debts
Whenever a person dies, it is likely they left behind various unpaid debts. Whether these are medical bills, credit card debt, mortgages, or other bills and debts, these will almost always need to be paid out of proceeds from the estate. However, since it will take a period of time before an estate is properly settled, it may be necessary to work out arrangements with creditors. While you may be able to do this yourself as the estate’s executor or administrator, having a skilled probate attorney working on your behalf will make the task much easier. By having your attorney negotiate payment arrangements with creditors, this can usually give you the time needed to get the estate settled and gain access to the funds required to pay off bills and debts.
Preparing and Filing Probate Court Documents
Whether it is a list of beneficiaries from the estate, a listing of assets and their values, or perhaps debts owed by the estate and to whom they are owed, this and other information is often required by the probate court as the estate is in the process of being settled. Along with this, should there be any challenges to a will, an executor or administrator will need an attorney to prepare and file various motions to the contrary. Also, with each document that must be filed with the probate court, a deadline will be associated with it as well. Should you miss a deadline for filing certain documents, this could delay the settling of the estate and drag out what is already a complicated process. Therefore, always work very closely with your probate attorney to make sure you know exactly what documents need to be prepared and filed, as well as how long you have to get them into the court’s possession.
Managing the Estate’s Checkbook
If there is one thing you do not want to see filled with mistakes while acting as executor or administrator of an estate, it is management of the estate’s checkbook. However, if you try to manage this yourself, chances are you may see one mistake after another take place due to your lack of experience in this area. Therefore, it is always recommended you hire the services of an experienced and knowledgeable probate attorney to help manage the money. Once a person dies, those who may have been named in the will as well as creditors will be clamoring to get paid as quickly as possible. If you do not have an attorney handling this area of estate planning and management, you may pay beneficiaries more than to which they are entitled, or perhaps overpay or underpay a creditor. By hiring an attorney, you can be sure all details will be closely examined prior to any money being distributed.
Determining if Estate Taxes are Owed
While death is a certainty for everyone, so are taxes. If there is one thing you can count on happening, it is the IRS finding out quickly your loved one has died and expecting taxes to be paid on the estate. While you may want to consult a tax attorney for advice on this matter as well, a knowledgeable probate lawyer can usually help you determine what if any estate taxes will be owed. If an estate has been placed in a trust and will pass directly to a surviving spouse, estate taxes are rarely owed. However, rather than make assumptions that could prove costly in many ways, never leave this important area of estate planning to chance. Instead, consult with an experienced attorney to make sure everything is handled correctly.