What is a Probate Lawyer?

Wills, Trusts, & Estates: The Purpose of a Probate Lawyer

The word “probate” derives its meaning from the Latin  probare, meaning “to test, prove, or examine.”  In law, a probate lawyer assists in the judicial process of examining and settling a deceased person’s estate.

A probate court determines the validity of a deceased person’s will. Proving the will’s validity grants approval, or “probate,” to the Executor.  Executors represent the estate during the probate process. The Testator (deceased person) will generally appoint an executor. However, a probate lawyer must validate the appointment through the probate process.

In general, a probate lawyer directly assists in guiding a personal representative through the entire probate process. A probate lawyer is also known as an estate lawyer or an estate attorney. Upon a will’s validation, a probate lawyer legally appoints the executor power to dispose of the testator’s assets as specified in the will.

However, a probated will doesn’t mean an uncontested will. According to The Balance, an invalid will result in a probate lawyer settling the estate under Intestacy laws. Intestacy refers to an estate whose owner died without having made a valid will or other binding declaration.  These laws also apply to any portions of the estate not covered by a valid, probated will.

Because of this, probate lawyers must have extensive knowledge of various state and federal laws.

What Does a Probate Attorney Do?

A probate lawyer is an attorney who specializes in helping clients navigate the probate process. While there are lawyers who practice exclusively in Probate and Estate Planning, typically, they are experienced in other areas of practice as well. Some other common practice areas attorneys who handle Probate cases include wills, trusts, power of attorney, family law, divorce, and even real estate.

The probate process can be complicated and time-consuming, and the stakes are often high. The executor of the estate and the beneficiaries of the deceased person’s assets may have competing interests, and disputes can arise over the interpretation of the will or the distribution of assets. A probate lawyer can help to ensure that the probate process runs smoothly and that everyone’s rights are protected. They can also provide valuable guidance and support to their clients during a difficult time.

They are typically hired by the executor of the deceased person’s estate, but they can also be hired by beneficiaries or creditors. 

Providing guidance to clients

Probate attorneys, like all attorneys should, will provide insight into all aspects of the probate process, including how to navigate the legal system. They help clients understand their legal rights and obligations, and provide guidance on how to avoid potential legal pitfalls.

Planning, filing, and managing the probate process

Your probate attorney will be able to manage the probate process from start to finish. Some of the most common tasks a probate lawyer handles includes:

A probate and estate planning attorney will also work to resolve any disputes that may arise during the probate process, including disputes over asset distribution or challenges to the validity of a will.

Representing clients in court

In some cases, a probate case may have unresolved disputes that require taking the case to court.

Some common reasons why a probate case may go to court include:

Probate lawyers are skilled litigators who can help their clients navigate the complex legal landscape that often accompanies the probate process.

How Can a Probate Lawyer Help Me?

Having a will may sound like enough to settle an estate, but legal matters are never that simple. Settling a deceased person’s estate is a very intricate and complicated procedure. Probate lawyers handle all of the appropriate paperwork filings for the probate process from start to finish. The responsibilities, however, don’t stop there.

Probate lawyers locate and determine which assets are probate and which are non-probate (such as jointly-owned assets). They also keep track of retirement plans, 401Ks, and life insurance collections. Also, they handle estate/inheritance/income tax issues, debt repayments, and title transfers.

Not to mention, probate lawyers are also responsible for the estate’s checking account. They must evaluate, appraise, and assist in the sale of any estate properties. Requesting any necessary court permissions also falls under the function of a probate lawyer.

Probate lawyers also settle any internal disputes involving the estate. Sometimes beneficiaries and personal representatives do not get along. In these cases, a probate lawyer represents either the beneficiary or the personal representative.

When a probate lawyer represents a personal representative in a separate but related lawsuit or assists a beneficiary in challenging a will in court, they are known as probate litigators, estate litigators, or trust litigators.

All in all, a probate attorney can be, at the very least, a useful resource for questions regarding probates and the probate process. Your attorney will be able to assist in any matters involving estate planning, wills, trusts, and other legal documents that are involved in the probate process. If you are the executor of a loved one’s estate or a beneficiary or creditor, it is important to consider hiring a probate lawyer to help you navigate this complex legal process.

If you need assistance is the probate process, or are looking for any other legal advice, be sure to contact Suddarth and Koor for your free consultation today!