How A Probate Attorney Can Help You

Also known as an estate lawyer, a probate attorney is a state certified and licensed lawyer that facilitates the transfer of an estate to various beneficiaries. Estate lawyers can work with both beneficiaries and executor, helping make sure the asset transfer process is as simple as possible. Probate refers to the lengthy process that begins after an estate owner passes away. There are multiple steps involved in the process, and emotions between family members can run hot during this time, so having a professional speeding the process along is vital.

What happens when the estate owner passes away?

When an estate owner leaves behind a large estate, the assets have to be formally passed on to beneficiaries named in the will. First, the person named the will’s executor will have to prove that the will is legitimate to the court and provide a complete list of all manageable assets. Beneficiaries, relatives and any creditors holding debt against the estate are notified of the owner’s passing after the will’s legitimacy is verified.
The executor will then have to identify and gather all of the estate owner’s assets and inventory them. It is then appraised by a third party. At this point, some of the assets may be sold to pay for the court process or to resolve any outstanding debts the estate owner incurred in life. The remaining assets are then divided up according to the will’s instructions. However, this part of the process is often contested as surviving beneficiaries fight over who is entitled to what. This can bog the process down considerably, forcing the sale of more assets to fund the court proceedings.

How can a probate attorney help?

In some cases, an estate lawyer will not be necessary to guide the process. However, if any of the following are true, it is best to hire a lawyer experienced in the area:

•    Most of the estate’s assets will have to pass through the courts before they are granted to beneficiaries

•    The estate is particularly large

•    Family members or beneficiaries are not cooperative during the process

•    There are unique assets tied to the estate (like a business or revenue generating assets)

•    There are not enough assets to cover debts

A probate attorney can advise executors and beneficiaries caught up in these situations, ensuring that all assets are handled properly throughout the proceedings.

Estate lawyers can provide support in many ways. They can help locate and gather assets, help generate appraisals of the assets, file all documentation needed by the court, advise on and help coordinate debt payments. They can also help determine what assets have taxes that need paying, help distribute assets to beneficiaries and mediate any disputes between beneficiaries. In general, the faster the estate passes through the courts, the less expensive the process will be. It is in all the beneficiaries’ interest to bring in an unbiased third party to speed everything up and ensure everything is in accordance with the court.

This article was published on Tuesday 30 September, 2014.

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