A probate attorney is a lawyer who specializes in estates held in probate. Probate is the process used to validate a decedent's Last Will and Testament, inventory assets, and distribute financial holdings, real estate, and personal belongings to beneficiaries.
Most people require the services of a Transactional probate attorney. This type of lawyer is best suited to handle estate administration duties. Transactional probate lawyers will open the probate case and present the original Will to the probate court. They will provide assistance to the appointed Estate Administrator and ensure appropriate legal documents are filed in a timely fashion.
In situations where family conflict exists or when heirs contest the validity of the decedent's Will, a Probate Litigator is a more appropriate choice. Probate Litigators specialize in overseeing estates enveloped in family dispute. Whether heirs are fighting over distribution or have been disinherited, Probate Litigators can mediate and negotiate.
When an heir contests the Will, they are responsible for legal costs. However, if a probate judge rules in their favor, the estate must reimburse the heir or pay the probate attorney directly. Regardless of whether the heir wins or not, he can potentially tie the estate up in probate for months or years.
If the decedent owned real estate, their estate is responsible for maintaining the property. This includes paying mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, property taxes, homeowners' association fees, and necessary maintenance. Unless the decedent was quite wealthy, these expenses can create financial hardship for the estate.
Probate attorneys are usually necessary when a person dies intestate (without executing a Will). Intestate probate is notorious for dragging on for years. Probate lawyers can assist heirs in organizing documents, designate a probate executor, execute legal documents and represent the family in probate court.
If possible, interview several probate lawyers during the estate planning process. It's never a good idea to hire a probate attorney when you are grieving the loss of your loved one. However, if this cannot be avoided, do your best to consult with a minimum of three attorneys.
Probate attorney fees are either a percentage of the gross value of the estate or an hourly fee. Be certain to understand fees prior to signing any contract. A large percentage of work can be conducted by the estate administrator. The Administrator is entitled to a fee and should be based on an hourly wage.
Administering an estate can be time-consuming; particularly when the estate has significant financial or real estate holdings. When appointing a person to this position, it is important to select someone who is level-headed and good with finances.
Many probate attorneys specialize in estate planning and trusts. Through the establishment of living trusts and irrevocable life insurance trusts, probate can be avoided altogether.
Probate attorneys can be located in your local phone book, via the Internet, or through the American Bar Association website. Additionally, ask friends, relatives and neighbors for probate attorney referrals.
Published on December 11, 2008 at 03:52 AM