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By The Wyoming LLC Attorney Team

Sep 20, 2018
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  1. Choose a Probate Attorney

Probate Lawyers & Estate Planning

Estate Planning

Summary

Probate lawyers play a critical role in estate planning, handling matters from will execution to trust protection. There are two types: probate litigators for contested wills and transactional attorneys for estate planning and settlement. Choosing the right lawyer, especially in cases of family disputes, is essential. Referrals from trusted sources can simplify the selection process and ease the anxiety of hiring probate lawyers.

Probate lawyers and estate planning often go hand in hand. Lawyers specializing in this legal field can assist with executing a basic Will to protect inheritance property via a trust. They are often hired by estate administrators to record legal documents through probate court or assist with estate settlement duties.

Probate Litigators

Two types of probate lawyers exist. Probate litigators are required when heirs contest the last Will and when family disputes arise over the distribution of inheritance property. Transactional lawyers are best suited for matters related to estate planning and estate settlement.

Hopefully, you will never require a probate litigator as they are usually only called in when things get heated. In addition to negotiating family disputes, probate litigators can be helpful when lawsuits are filed against decedents' estates.

Transactional Attorney

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Transactional lawyers can help estate administrators by recording the last will and death certificate to obtain a probate case number. This type of lawyer can be very beneficial when a person dies without executing a last will and testament. Known as intestate, these types of estates must be settled according to state probate laws.

Common duties of transactional lawyers include:

  • Negotiating outstanding debt with creditors;
  • Drafting consent forms for the transfer of inheritance cash;
  • Executing affidavits for the transfer of real property; and
  • Reviewing documents required by the court

Choosing Between the Two

Some probate lawyers are transactional and litigation attorneys. This can be beneficial to individuals who are concerned family disputes will occur after they are gone. When family disharmony is prevalent, it is smart to designate a probate attorney as the estate executor to minimize the risks of having the Will contested.

Hiring a probate lawyer to manage estates during the grieving process can be difficult to do. If possible, retain the lawyer who drafted the decedent's last Will. If not, try to interview 2 or 3 lawyers to find one that is a good match and places the estate administrator at ease. Settling decedent estates can be a highly charged process. Working with a lawyer who seems completely disconnected from the decedent can make the process unbearable.

Take time to organize important documents prior to consulting with probate lawyers. Ask for a list of information that's required when setting an appointment to meet. At a minimum, attorneys need:

  • The decedents' date of birth and death
  • Social security number
  • Last will, death certificate
  • Tax returns
  • Property deeds
  • Life insurance policies

When estates have real estate holdings, it's preferable to retain a probate attorney with experience in real estate law. Transferring real property to heirs is rather complex and requires the submission of specific documents through the courts.

Avoiding Probate

Probate attorneys can advise on strategies to avoid probate. Individuals with assets valued at $100,000 or more may want to protect inheritance property by establishing a trust. Individuals with smaller estates can also protect inheritance by assigning beneficiaries to financial accounts and obtaining joint ownership titles for automobiles and real estate.

Ask family, friends, or co-workers for lawyer referrals, or visit the American Bar Association website at abanet.org. Obtaining referrals can save time and reduce the anxiety often associated with hiring probate lawyers.

Conclusion

Estate planning and probate lawyers play a vital role in ensuring the orderly distribution of assets and the protection of inheritance property. Whether you require a probate litigator for contested wills or a transactional attorney for estate planning and settlement, choosing the right lawyer is essential, especially in cases involving family disputes.

Before consulting with probate lawyers, it's important to organize documents and provide the necessary information. Probate lawyers can also offer guidance on strategies to avoid probate, such as setting up trusts or assigning beneficiaries to financial accounts.