The circumstances requiring a probate attorney usually follow a death in the family – not the best of times. Consequently, most of us don’t know a lot about a probate attorney or what this specialized legal professional does.
First and foremost, a probate attorney is a state licensed lawyer who deals with the winding-up of a deceased person’s estate. A probate attorney, also known as an estate lawyer or an estate attorney, is responsible for guiding an Executor (Personal Representative) through the whole probate process from beginning to end.
With years of mentoring experience, and ongoing legal education, a probate attorney understands the specific legal complexities of the probate procedure. This gives the probate attorney the ability to advise the Executors, and beneficiaries of an estate on how to settle all the final affairs of a deceased person (the decedent).
Where the decedent lived at the time of their death and all the steps involved in winding up an estate depend on the probate laws of that state. The laws of any other states where the decedent owned real estate will also affect the probate process. Plainly put, probate is the process that happens after an individual passes away that includes distributing assets and taking care of any debts.
Probate attorneys assist with the drawing up a last will and testament, although legally, a lawyer does not have to write a will or handle an estate. A probate attorney can also assist with asset protection and trust planning (including living trusts) and beneficiaries will use one to advise on matters concerning an estate, legal or otherwise.
A probate attorney can specialize in representing Executors and beneficiaries involved in separate lawsuits related to a decedent’s estate or when a will is challenged in a will contest. Estate litigators, probate litigators, or estate and trust litigators are all probate lawyers specialized in litigation.
A probate lawyer advises and assists with the following:
• Tracing and securing probate assets and non probate assets
• Obtaining date-of-death prices and appraisals of all the decedent’s possessions
• Organizing and filing all documents required by the probate court in a timely manner
• Collecting life insurance proceeds
• Rolling over and making appropriate elections for retirement plans, including IRAs and 401(k)s
• Advising on the payment of the decedent’s final bills and outstanding debts
• Keeping track of the estate checking account
• Calculating estate and inheritance taxes at federal and state levels and allocating cash to pay them.
• Addressing income tax issues
• Settling disputes among Personal Representatives and beneficiaries
• Assisting with the sale of estate property
• Requesting court permission for actions required by related state probate laws
• Retitling the decedent’s real estate into the names of the beneficiaries if not being sold
• Distributing remaining assets after the payment of bills and taxes to the beneficiaries
While having a valid last will and testament is the greatest bequest for those left behind, the services of a probate attorney will always be required when winding up an estate.