While the law does not mandate hiring a probate attorney, it may prove advantageous to consider their services, given the potential complexities that can arise during the probate process.
Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer
Consider these factors to determine if hiring an attorney is necessary:
- Sufficient assets to cover debts?
- Beneficiary disputes?
- Avoiding probate court?
- Estate size?
- Real property disputes?
- Complex tax matters?
- Federal estate tax owed?
Seek legal assistance if any apply, ranging from consultation to full representation.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
A probate attorney offers estate administration counsel, with their role varying depending on the presence of a will.
They assist in tasks like asset distribution, debt settlement, insurance claims, tax matters, and legal document preparation for probate court.
How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?
Probate lawyer fees vary based on experience, specialization, location, and case complexity.
Payment can be hourly, flat fee, or a percentage of the estate; clarify terms before hiring.
The Probate Process
Probate necessity hinges on state laws. Some states offer simplified procedures for smaller estates.
It initiates after a person’s death, with differing rules for wills and intestate cases, overseen by the probate court.
Detailed state-specific processes can be found in our probate process article.
Testate vs. Intestate Probate
If there’s a will (testate), property follows its instructions. You can create a state-specific will if you don’t have one.
Without a will (intestate), state laws determine property distribution.
The will usually designates an executor. If not, or in intestate cases, the court appoints a personal representative.
How Long Do Probate Proceedings Take?
How long probate takes depends on several factors, including:
- How big the estate is
- The number of beneficiaries
- If there are issues with the will
- If there are taxes and debts that need to be paid
Depending on how complicated the case is, the probate process may take anywhere from a few years to decades.