What is Probate?
The court-supervised process of probate is where the assets of a recently deceased person, known as the decedent, are transferred into the names of their heirs. In addition to validating the deceased person’s last will, this legal action involves a probate lawyer who helps distribute assets to heirs and ensure the estate’s debts are paid.
“Assets are officially transferred to beneficiaries or heirs through probate after a person passes away. Moreover, probate can take a long time and be difficult or fairly simple, “comments Julia L. Cronin, an attorney with Evergreen Legacy Planning, a Colorado-based firm. “Colorado has a small estate probate procedure for estates under about $70,000 and devoid of real property, by the state’s unique probate laws. There are two types of probate procedures: formal probate, typically necessary when there is a large estate or complex assets, and informal probate, which comes in use when there is no expectation that an estate will be in contention.”
The executor or personal representative, beneficiaries, creditors, and a judge are usually involved in the administration of the estate.
What is a Probate Lawyer?
After someone passes away, their will, assets, and possessions must go through the legal process known as probate. The specialized legal experts who can help with this process are probate lawyers, also known as estate lawyers or trust lawyers. Any step of the probate process receives help from these attorneys.4
This help could consist of: Depending on the state of the will and the person’s assets:
1. Validating the will
2. Listing the belongings of the deceased
3. Valuing the deceased person’s possessions
4. Paying back unpaid loans and taxes
5. Distributing the departed’s possessions
There isn’t always a need for probate. Sometimes, you can distribute assets to heirs without going through probate if the deceased person’s assets are below a certain threshold by the state. Pensions, 401(k) plans, insurance policies, trusts, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) all transfer funds directly to the named beneficiary instead of going through the probate process when they have designated beneficiaries.
When is a Probate Attorney Necessary?
It’s not always necessary to hire a probate attorney. Moreover, a person can manage the probate procedure independently without an attorney’s help. However, in more complicated situations or in any situation where the appointed executor of the estate feels uneasy handling the probate process alone, a probate lawyer is a valuable asset.
The executor is in charge of the following:
1. Filling out court forms
2. Distributing assets as well as changing their legal ownership
3. Notifying the heirs specified in the will or chosen by the court
4. Reimbursing the deceased’s debts and taxes
5. Covering the costs of the funeral
6. Keeping track of every step in winding up the estate and reporting it to the court.
A probate attorney can help if you’re unsure or uncomfortable with these steps. Additionally, you should think about hiring a probate attorney if:
1. The will’s instructions aren’t clear
2. There is no will, the deceased had substantial assets, or there is a disagreement regarding how the assets should be divided.
3. You doubt the will’s legality
4. You doubt the will’s legality
5. The estate has more debts than assets and is, therefore, insolvent
6. The estate has more debts than assets and is, therefore, insolvent
The Advantages of Consulting a Probate Lawyer
The probate process can be complex, especially if the decedent left behind a sizable estate. Moreover, after probate is complete, executors and administrators must submit a final accounting of all their estate-related activities. However, this also contains a thorough accounting of all assets received and expenses paid. In addition, the final distribution of any unspent money and the gains and losses on sales must be accurate in records.
A probate attorney gives the executor or administrator additional protection for these documents. Any errors in these filings must have been made by the executor or administrator alone if a lawyer hadn’t been consulted. A competent probate attorney will ensure that all accounting is handled correctly, occasionally seeking advice from a different accounting firm for more complex cases.
Moreover, a probate attorney offers objectivity when addressing the estate. And so, for those who were close to the person who passed away, it can be difficult. Therefore, a probate attorney can take a step back from the intense emotions that others are experiencing and render a fair and unbiased decision in any potential conflicts.
During this challenging time, handling dispute assessment and other delicate issues can be more accessible by working with an experienced attorney.
So, is it possible to navigate probate without legal counsel? Briefly, yes. While you can frequently handle the probate process on your own, occasionally, an estate is confusing or large enough to consider hiring a lawyer. Lastly, consider seeking professional assistance if you don’t want to go through this alone.