Probating an estate describes the process of determining inheritors and proving the will before an estate is distributed among the beneficiaries. Although probating is not mandatory in all cases, it is required for high-value assets like real estate.
A Complicated Process
Because probating is not as straightforward as it seems, people who don’t have the required legal knowledge often find it intensely challenging – which places an unnecessary burden on the surviving loved ones while they are still grieving.
To make matters worse, probating the estate incorrectly means that the person who is responsible for the estate can be held liable for any mistakes made during the estate’s distribution.
If you’re still wondering what a probate lawyer does and if you need one, read on.
1. Avoid Family Conflicts
If you hire a reputable probate lawyer, you can prevent many family conflicts that may arise. Usually, family members of the deceased want to be involved in the probate process, which can lead to disputes and even more confusion.
Denying family members’ involvement in the probate process can make it look like you’re trying to alienate them or hide something from them. However, the more people involved in the process, the more challenging it becomes.
When people – especially family members who are grieving – disagree on how to approach issues in the probate process, even more tensions can arise. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in the probate process can mitigate family conflicts and answer any questions the survivors have.
2. Get Access to the Estate Sooner
Probating an estate is often a lengthy process – sometimes it takes more than a year to complete, and most certainly won’t happen faster than three or four months. Problems arise when family members or inheritors can’t get access to the assets, property, or investments in the deceased’s estate.
Hiring a probate lawyer is the best way to ensure that the process doesn’t take any longer than it needs to.
3. Avoid Claims Against the Estate
When a person passes on, there are often defendants who try to make a claim against the deceased’s estate. This is especially common when a spouse or other family member is excluded from the deceased’s will but feels that they are entitled to something.
If beneficiaries believe that the distribution process isn’t being handled correctly, they may also make claims against the estate. Hiring a probate lawyer to help with the process is the best way to protect the estate against unsubstantiated claims.
4. Prevent Rejections
To begin the estate probating process, specific documents must be completed and filed with the court. If these documents are not filled out correctly or are missing details, the court will reject them. If the documents are not accepted by the court, it will significantly delay the entire probating process.
The probate process is incredibly complex and can include documents with more than 50 pages. Just one mistake can set the entire process back by months.
Hiring an experienced probate lawyer to help you fill out and submit the documents will ensure you get it right the first time – you won’t have to resubmit all the tedious paperwork. The probating process can begin without delay.
5. Deal with Debts Correctly
If the deceased owed debts at the time of their passing, taking care of the financial responsibilities is crucial. Payments for basic debts like funeral expenses, income tax, and personal loans should always be paid from the estate – but If the deceased had a complex financial situation, it will be even more challenging to handle it correctly without a probate lawyer.
Although the cost of the deceased’s debts can come from the estate, each financial situation is unique. A probate lawyer will be able to advise you on the best way forward.
6. Avoid Overpayments
As mentioned above, you might find yourself handling the deceased’s debts. If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you run the risk of under or overpaying.
Sometimes, you’ll also need to submit complex legal documents to inform the deceased’s debtors that they have passed on. This process can be complicated and time-consuming.
Hiring a probate lawyer to help you with payments and legal documentation will ensure everything is handled correctly.
7. Get Answers to Your Questions
As you start the probating process, chances are that you’ll have questions. You may have questions like who to notify about the probating process, whether assets also need probating, and what to do if the deceased had debt.
Hiring an experienced probate lawyer to provide you with legal counsel in this complex process is essential. If you begin the process without help, you can also become liable for any mistakes.
A reputable probate lawyer will also have resources and connections – which can prove invaluable during a slow or complicated probate process.
8. Avoid Lawsuits
If family members or beneficiaries disagree with the probating or distribution process after the account holder passes away, they may bring lawsuits.
Dealing with lawsuits from family members can always be emotionally draining, costly, and time-consuming, especially if you don’t have a lawyer. Having a probate lawyer on your side will make the process more transparent for everyone involved and minimize the risk of lawsuits.
9. Reduce Costs
Many people hire probate lawyers to reduce the costs involved. While you will have to pay a probate lawyer, they will be able to save you on other expenses that may arise during the probating process.
Because a probate lawyer will prioritize access to assets as soon as possible, you can protect them from potential theft or loss. A probate lawyer will also explain the taxes and mortgages owed on the estate so you can avoid accumulating costly penalties. Failing to administer the estate correctly can end up being much more expensive than a probate lawyer’s fees in the long run.