What Does a Probate Attorney Really Do?

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Most people are familiar with the concept of using a Will, sometimes known as a Last Will and Testament, to indicate who gets what after they have passed away.  Fewer know that relying on a Will ensures that someone is going to have to go to court to translate those wishes into reality –  assuming their estate exceeds a certain value. In California, that number is $150,000.  If you die with more than $150,000 in assets in your name alone and without any beneficiary designation, Probate will be required. And Probate can be complicated.   With or without a Will.  That is why using revocable trusts is so popular in California.

If you’ve recently experienced the death of a loved one, you may have spent a lot of time and money dealing with their estate and trying to get their assets out of Probate.

KAKE.com’s recent article, “Do I Need to Hire a Probate Lawyer?: The Top Signs You Should Lawyer Up” says that trying to do this on your own can often be time-consuming and expensive. That’s why it’s smart to have a probate lawyer working with you.

A probate or estate planning lawyer is one who specializes in issues related to a deceased person’s estate. They have a broad range of responsibilities, which includes the following:

  • Guiding people through the probate process;
  • Advising the beneficiaries of an estate;
  • Representing beneficiaries, if they become involved in lawsuits related to the estate; and
  • Helping with challenges to the validity of the deceased’s will.

If you’re unsure about hiring a lawyer, consider whether you’re dealing with any of these issues in your case:

A Will Contest. This is when another beneficiary challenges the will. If someone contests the will, it will drag out the process and could put you at risk of losing what your loved one wanted for you to have.

Divided Assets. When split assets are part of an estate, things get complicated, especially when you have intangible assets. To avoid trouble, hire a lawyer who can help navigate the division of these assets and make certain that everything is handled in a fair manner.

An Estate Doesn’t Qualify for the Simple Probate Process. Probate can be extremely complicated. Depending on the size of the estate, it may qualify for simpler procedures that are completed relatively quickly. If this isn’t the case for the estate at issue, you should get a probate attorney to help you.  Neglecting to provide proper notice and missing deadlines can potentially add extra months (or years) to an already lengthy process.

There’s Considerable Debt. If your loved one died with many debts, the estate will need to be used to pay those off. This can be tricky to manage on your own. An experienced attorney will help you make sure everything gets paid off and can negotiate debts to ensure you and the other beneficiaries receive as much from the estate as possible.

There’s Estate Tax Due. While most estates don’t have to pay any federal taxes, some states have their own estate taxes that apply to estates worth $1 million or more. It’s not an easy process, so it’s a good idea to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. The good news for our clients is that California is not one of those states.

There’s a Business in the Estate. You need to ask an attorney to you sort this out, because this will include the process of appraising, managing and selling a business of the deceased owner.

If any of these situations apply to you, hire an attorney with the necessary qualifications to deal with estates and the probate process.

And if you aren’t sure that you want to serve as Executor of an estate,  you can read more in our blog post “What Do I Need to Know Before Becoming an Estate Executor“.

Reference: KAKE.com (August 9, 2019) “Do I Need to Hire a Probate Lawyer?: The Top Signs You Should Lawyer Up”