Probate Lawyers gets the job done!

Probate Lawyers - An Overview

The legal procedure carried out to validate a deceased person’s Will, while taking into account the estate and property left behind and paying the taxes applicable is known as Probate. Once all the property accounting is done, the remaining assets and properties are all distributed to the beneficiaries and heirs who are expressly named in the Will of a deceased person. The Probate process can take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending upon how complex the Will is.

The Probate issues can be addressed before the death of an individual occurs, for instance – event of terminal illness. If the death occurs in unexpected circumstances, then certain probate issues can crop up which can be difficult to deal with, especially if the individual dies without making a Will. The absence of a Will makes a deceased person intestate.

If the content of the Will is straightforward and simple, consists of a single beneficiary or comprises of common assets such as a house, bank accounts and life insurance policy; taking assistance of Probate Lawyers may not be necessary. Most probate cases involve many duties and variables which make handling of the probate process difficult to handle for a laymen.

Who is a Probate Lawyer?

A probate lawyer is a state licensed attorney who has acquired legal education and experience in dealing with probate law which consists of dozens of issues that are likely to occur from a person’s death and transferring of assets. These lawyers acquire the probate expertise through years of mentoring. They advise Personal Representatives who are also known as Executors, and also the beneficiaries of an estate on settlement of the final affairs of a deceased person.

Who are Personal Representatives?

The people representing a deceased person in order to conclude that person’s affairs and to administer and operate their estate and assets in accordance with the Will or law are known as Personal Representatives.  A probate lawyers helps personal representatives understand the role and authority that they have over a Will.

The executors appointed either in the Last Testament or Will of a deceased person and named in the Grant of Representation of the probate, or the individuals who are appointed by Letters of Administration to manage and supervise the administration of the estate and property of a deceased person are the personal representatives of the respective Will.

What does a Probate Lawyer do?

A probate lawyer is also known as an estate attorney or an estate lawyer. He is responsible for taking a personal representative through the entire process of probate from start to finish.

The steps concerned in probating an estate largely depend on the probate laws of the state where the deceased person resided at the time of death. Any other state where the deceased person owned any real estate will be applicable according to the probate laws prevalent.

There are a number of issues that a probate lawyer must be ready to tackle. He must know how to reduce the estate taxes through family partnerships and gifts to make sure that the majority of the estate and property is passed on to the beneficiaries and heirs instead of the government; shift the deceased person’s title to real estate; handle legalities concerned with a minor child who is left without parents; deal with the creditors and insolvent estates and many other complex legal issues.

How a Probate Lawyer Advises and Assists a Personal Representative

A probate lawyer will assist the personal representative of an estate of a deceased person and advice him with the following aspects:

  • Finding and ensuring security of both probate and non-probate assets;
  • Obtaining date of death values and appraisals of all of the decedent's property;
  • Making preparation of and filing all the necessary documents required by the probate court in a timely manner;
  • Collection of life insurance revenue;
  • In regards to retirement plans, including IRAs and 401(k)s rolling over and making appropriate elections;
  • Imparting advice on the payment of the deceased person's final bills and outstanding debts;
  • Tracking the estate checking account;
  • Ensuring if any estate taxes and/or inheritance taxes will be due at the state and federal levels and if so, then determining where the cash will come from to pay the taxes;
  • Taking into consideration the income tax issues
  • Settling disputes between the beneficiaries and the Personal Representatives
  • Assisting with selling of the estate and property
  • Asking for court’s permission for different actions as per applicable state probate laws
  • Transferring  the deceased person’s real estate into the names of the estate beneficiaries if the property is not being sold
  • Distribution of the leftover estate and property of the deceased after the payment of bills and taxes to the beneficiaries

Contesting a Probate

A probate lawyer helps to tackle the problem of contesting a probate. Anyone with a legal financial interest in the estate, including a spouse or a former spouse, children, heirs and beneficiaries can contest a Will of a deceased person. If a child or a spouse of the deceased person has been eliminated from the Will altogether or not being treated as favourably as other beneficiaries and heirs, then they possess the right to contest the Will. A deceased person’s family members may also choose to contest the Will if they feel that too much of the estate is transferred to non-profit organizations.

Many a times, people are reluctant to draft a living Will as it reminds them of their own mortality. Nonetheless, probate lawyers assist people in settling their affairs to refrain from unnecessary complications which might occur in the future.  They give the surviving family members a little less to worry about.