Usually, a person isn’t even aware of what a probate lawyer does until he or she is in need of one, after a family member has died and help is needed immediately. But it's a great idea to hire a probate lawyer before you actually “need” his or her services so things can go as smoothly as possible when it comes to taking an estate through the probate process.
The probate lawyer’s job is to assist families as an estate passes through the court system so it can be distributed properly. There are several steps that the court must go through to close an estate, and the attorney makes sure everything is started and followed through on, as these steps are being followed.
Some basics of probate include:
• Validating the will
• Creating an inventory of assets
• Getting appropriate appraisals for assets
• Creating a list of debts
• Paying debts
• Dispersing the remaining property according to the will
If there is no will, the estate is said to be “intestate,” and the court will have even more say in what becomes of the decedent’s property.
Not every estate needs a probate lawyer. Some families have placed their assets into trusts that don’t go through the probate process. Some wills are simple and easy to execute, such as where there are little to no debts and common property is left to a surviving spouse alone. In other cases, though, hiring a probate lawyer will simplify the process for everyone involved and will most likely save the estate a fair amount of money. That's because the attorney can implement strategies to help lower the taxes that must be paid.
He or she can also become an objective outside party who can assist the executor of the will where family tensions run high. Along those same lines, if someone with a legal or financial interest in the estate wants to contest the will, it makes sense to have a probate attorney working to make sure the decedent’s wishes are carried out to the best of the court’s ability. Finally, it can be a good idea to involve a probate lawyer where an individual has a terminal illness. The attorney can help that person to get their affairs in order by drawing up a will and understanding first-hand what the person wants for the estate.
There are many tasks that the probate lawyer will perform for the estate such as:
• Filing documents with the court
• Creating lists of assets
• Placing legal notices in newspapers
• Contacting creditors
• Making sure taxes are paid on the estate
A good probate lawyer will keep current on relevant laws as they change and will work to help the clients and heirs follow all of the right procedures while doing their best to protect their interests. If we can assist you and your family, please call us at 770-425-6060.
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