Legal Guide

What is a Probate Attorney - A Complete Guide

Do you know who a Probate Attorney is?

Do you know what services a Probate Lawyer renders?

Do you need an experienced Estate Attorney? 

In this complete guide, you will get to know who a Probate Lawyer is, the services they render, and how to know if you need an Estate Attorney or not. You will also get to know what questions to ask before retaining the services of a Probate Lawyer. This guide concludes with a pointer to get a competent probate attorney Orlando if you currently reside in the US state of Florida. 

Who Is a Probate Attorney?

Death is often an uncomfortable topic for most people. But whether we like it or not, death is an inevitable reality that we all would have to come to terms with at some point in our lives. 

One way to come to terms with death is by preparing an Estate Plan or a Will before one is deceased. While no one knows when death would come calling, early planning for the eventuality is always a good idea. 

In the event of a death, the decedent’s Will is validated through a Probate Court Proceeding. Even where a decedent dies intestate, in this case, they had no Estate Plan or Will in place before their demise; a lengthy probate court hearing could be necessary to determine how their Estate would be shared amongst the living.

Probate court hearings can be very hectic, causing great physical, mental, and emotional strain to family members of the decedent. It is where a Probate Attorney comes in. A Probate Attorney is a lawyer that their state of operation has licensed to assist either the beneficiaries to an Estate or an Executor of a decedent’s Will during the probate court proceedings. This lawyer helps to facilitate Estate investigation, Asset inventory, Debt payment on Estate, Settlement, and Distribution of an Estate, amongst other crucial activities.

What Services are rendered by a Probate Lawyer? 

An estate attorney can be hired before or after death. If you have a Will, then that Will is subject to Probate. But if you choose to have a Trust as your Estate Plan, though the Trust is not subject to Probate, a Probate Lawyer can still assist your Trustee with the administration of the Trust.

A Probate Lawyer can represent either the beneficiary to an Estate or the Executor to a Will during Probate court proceedings. In helping to settle a decedent’s Estate legally, a Probate Lawyer is often involved in the execution of many activities that include:

• The collection of proceeds from a life insurance policy.

• Investigating, determining, and the payment of all inheritance taxes.

• Determining and paying off outstanding income and Estate taxes.

• Investigating, determining, and inventorying all the assets of a decedent.

• Payment of every outstanding tax and bill before the final distribution of the decedent's assets to beneficiaries

• The opening and management of a checking account for an Estate

• Arranging for the appraisal of real property assets.

• Settling of all final bills and debts.

• The preparation and filing of every document necessary for the Probate court proceedings

• Asset retitling from the decedent's name to the name of their beneficiaries. 

How to know if you need an Estate Attorney? 

As mentioned already, if you are related to a decedent that left behind a Will, you cannot avoid a Probate. You, therefore, need the services of a Probate Lawyer to help you out throughout the Probate court proceedings. 

Also, if the decedent left no Will but instead had a Trust in place for their Estate Plan, you can hire an Estate Attorney to assist in the administration of the Trust. But apart from these obvious factors, other considerations can influence your decision to hire a Probate Attorney. 

Some of these considerations include;

• If the decedent left no Will or Trust and is therefore intestate

• Complications in the relationship between beneficiaries to an Estate

• Complications in the qualification of decedent assets and the designation of beneficiaries.

• Complications are inherent in the Probate laws of the state you reside in

• The volume of the decedent Estate

It is important to note that you can participate in a Probate on your own. However, it is also important to note that if the volume of an Estate is very large or complicated, it would be advisable to have a Probate Lawyer on your retainer.

Crucial Questions to Ask before Retaining a Probate Attorney 

If you need to retain the services of a Probate Lawyer, you are advised to tread the estate’s volume carefully and not jump head-on into retaining any Estate Attorney that comes your way. The reason why asking questions is important is because you want to be on the same page with the Probate Lawyer you retain. You want to be sure that the Probate Lawyer has undeniable integrity. You need to know that the Probate Attorney is competent and has the requisite experience to handle your Probate court proceedings. 

You also want to know the cost implication of retaining the services of an Estate Attorney. You do not want to be caught off guard with hidden fees and costs that were not factored in from the beginning.  

To this end, there are crucial questions you need to ask before deciding on which Probate Attorney to retain. Three key questions you can ask are:

Q1: How experienced are you in Probate Law? 

The reason why you should ask this question is to know whether the Probate Attorney is experienced enough to speedily and seamlessly handle your Probate court proceedings. The last thing you need is a greenhorn involved in your case. 

Q2: Have you handled or practiced Probate Law in the designated court where my case has been assigned?

This question is important because a Probate Attorney with real-time experience in a particular court would be familiar with the court proceedings, which may vary from county to county. Also, the Estate Attorney would be familiar with the idiosyncrasies and mannerisms of the Judge(s) in the court. It helps to ensure that your case would not be met with hiccups due to the inexperience of court proceedings. 

Q3: What is the cost of your retainer?

You need to know whether the Probate Attorney charges an hourly rate, flat rate or even a percentage of the value of the Estate.

In Closing

A Probate Attorney takes care of all Probate court proceedings giving you peace of mind regarding the distribution of a decedent's estate. Knowing where and who to retain as your Estate Attorney is also very important. Finity Law is a Florida state’s licensed law firm made up of highly trained, experienced, and competent attorneys. Get in touch with us today for more information on our retainer and how we can assist you in your Probate case. 

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