Probate lawyers and estate planning often go hand in hand. Lawyers specializing in this legal field can assist with executing a basic Will to protecting 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.
Two types of probate lawyers exist. Probate litigators are required when heirs contest the last Will and when family disputes arise over 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 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 transfer of inheritance cash; executing affidavits for transfer of real property; and reviewing documents required by the court.
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 estate executor to minimize 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 minimum, attorneys need decedents' date of birth and death, social security number, last will, death certificate, tax returns, property deeds, and 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 submission of specific documents through the courts.
Probate attorneys can advise of 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.