The duties of a probate lawyer go beyond what most people presume. While they are the "go to" will attorney when it comes time to make out a will, probate lawyers also oversee the will after the maker's death as it winds through the probate process. Read on to find out more about what a probate lawyer can do after a death.
Wills and Probate – Those that die intestate (without a will) must still have their estate probated. Only in rare circumstances where the estate is worth less than a certain sum can probate be skipped. If there is no will, the family of the deceased can hire a probate lawyer to attend to the estate just as if there was a will. Each state has rules about how to handle intestate estates but one of the first actions is to appoint an executor or personal representative.
Representing Other Parties – Although most probate lawyers represent the estate of a decedent, the can also represent those wishing to contest or challenge a will in court. For example, if a beneficiary or other interested party believes that the will was created under duress, they may challenge it in court.
Executor Guidance – The person chosen to administer the estate works hand-in-hand with the probate lawyer before and during probate. For example, the executor will be attending to the debts of the estate. The probate lawyer will advise the executor on what bills to pay now and what to pay later at the close of probate. The lawyer will handle communications with creditors and deal with informing all creditors of the death – often by placing a notice in the newspaper.
Identifying Assets – An inventory is performed of all assets by the executor and the lawyer. Some assets are not to be included in probate. Non-probate assets might include:
- Bank accounts with payable-on-death designations.
- Investment or retirement accounts with total-on-death designations.
- Any property addressed in a trust.
- Real estate with certain deed designations.
Miscellaneous Tasks of a Probate Lawyer
- Re-titling deeds and titles to reflect new ownership.
- Dealing with life insurance payouts.
- Overseeing the bank accounts of the deceased.
- Dealing with income, estate, and inheritance taxes.
- Assisting with beneficiary issues.
- Overseeing the sale of estate property.
To find out more about the many duties of a probate lawyer, speak to one about your will and how your state deals with probate as soon as possible.