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What is a Probate Lawyer and Do You Need One?

What is a Probate Lawyer

Navigating the legal landscape after a loved one’s death can be overwhelming. One of the key professionals who can help you through this process is a probate lawyer. This blog will explain what a probate lawyer is, the difference between probate and estate planning lawyers, what probate lawyers do, their costs, and whether you might need one.


What is a Probate Lawyer?

A “probate lawyer”, also known as an estate attorney, specializes in guiding executors and beneficiaries through the probate process, which is the legal procedure of settling a deceased person's estate. Their expertise ensures that the estate is administered according to the deceased’s will or state law if no will exists.


Difference Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Planning Lawyer

While both probate lawyers and estate planning lawyers deal with the management of assets, they focus on different stages and aspects of the process.


Estate Planning Lawyer

  • Purpose: Helps clients plan the distribution of their assets and affairs before death.

  • Services: Drafting wills, establishing trusts, and creating power of attorney documents.

  • Clients: Individuals looking to ensure their wishes are fulfilled after their death and to minimize potential taxes and legal issues.


Probate Lawyer

  • Purpose: Assists in managing and settling the estate after someone has died.

  • Services: Navigating probate court, validating wills, distributing assets, and settling debts.

  • Clients: Executors or beneficiaries involved in the probate process.


What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

A probate lawyer’s duties can be extensive, including:


1. Filing the Will: Submitting the deceased’s will to probate court for validation.

2. Identifying Assets: Locating and cataloging the deceased’s assets and property.

3. Appraising Property: Determining the value of the estate's assets.

4. Paying Debts and Taxes: Ensuring all debts, bills, and taxes are paid from the estate.

5. Distributing Assets: Overseeing the distribution of assets to beneficiaries as specified in the will or by state law if no will exists.

6. Managing Estate Accounts: Handling the estate’s financial accounts during the probate process.

7. Resolving Disputes: Addressing any disputes that arise among beneficiaries or with creditors.


How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?

The cost of hiring a probate lawyer can vary based on several factors, including the complexity of the estate, the lawyer’s experience, and the geographical location. Common fee structures include:


1. Hourly Rate: Fees can range from $350 to $675 or more per hour.

3. Percentage of the Estate: Some states allow lawyers to charge a percentage of the estate’s value, typically ranging from 2% to 5%.


Do You Need a Probate Lawyer?

Whether you need a probate lawyer depends on various factors, such as:


1. Complexity of the Estate: For large or complicated estates with significant assets, multiple beneficiaries, or potential disputes, a probate lawyer is highly recommended.

2. State Laws: Probate laws vary by state, and a lawyer can help navigate the specific requirements and procedures in your jurisdiction.

3. Disputes Among Beneficiaries: If there is any conflict among beneficiaries or potential challenges to the will, a probate lawyer can provide valuable assistance.

4. Debt and Tax Issues: Estates with significant debts or complicated tax issues can benefit from a lawyer’s expertise in resolving these matters efficiently.


Conclusion

A probate lawyer can be an invaluable resource during the emotionally and legally complex process of settling a loved one’s estate. By understanding their role, costs, and when their services are necessary, you can make an informed decision about whether to seek their assistance. Consulting with a probate lawyer can ensure that the estate is handled properly and in accordance with the law, providing peace of mind during a challenging time.


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