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’s (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 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.
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.
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!