Probate is the legal process to inventory and validate the will and to distribute the assets of the deceased to the appropriate beneficiaries. Probate will also ensure taxes are paid and lawsuits and creditor claims are settled.
Probate lawyers can answer questions about probate administration, provide legal advice, and if necessary, litigate probate disagreements.
- Check the validity of the deceased’s will. Does it include all the applicable claims, debts and taxes?
- Review the estate taxes and make sure they are minimized.
- Ensure the assets and property of the deceased are transferred, sold and managed appropriately as outlined in the will.
- File the will.
- Litigate lawsuits if they arise between the beneficiaries of the estate.
- Manage burial plot issues.
- Probate administration
- Attend court proceedings
- Prepare accounting forms and legal documents for court appearances.
- Manage all other general probate issues
- Trust construction
- Testamentary or mental capacity issues
- Review the prospective probate lawyer’s area of expertise (trusts, estate planning, probate, probate litigation).
- Ask for recommendations for probate lawyers from family member and friends.
- Contact the state bar association and verify their practice record. Find out if any complaints have been filed against them.
- Review their website and make sure they have the level of expertise you need for your situation.
- Ask how long they have been practicing; a few years experience is recommended.
- Decide if you want a probate lawyer who has a local office.
- Ask for references. The probate lawyer should not hesitate to provide references from past clients.
- Schedule a meeting with the probate lawyer and bring a list of specific questions you would like answered.
- Verify the fee agreement and make sure you understand the services that they will provide for the established fee. The probate lawyer should be willing to provide a written fee agreement for their probate services.
If you need a probate lawyer generally someone has died and you are looking for someone to administrate the probate. A probate litigator may be needed if you and another beneficiary have a disagreement about the will. Finding the right probate lawyer is important and not all probate lawyers have experience in litigation.
Probate lawyers generally attempt to work with all parties to first negotiate when an estate dispute arises. If beneficiaries are in dispute, often finding the right probate lawyer and getting good legal counsel may be enough to help resolve issues quickly without an extended legal battle.
Unfortunately, if the disputes cannot be resolved informally, probate lawyers may be able to create a more structured settlement agreement to ensure that their client’s issues are resolved. Whether it is a will contest or probate lawsuit, probate lawyers will try to resolve issues without taking them to court, but if this not possible and one party refuses to fairly negotiate, probate lawyers are not afraid to litigate probate lawsuits in court.
Finding a probate attorney who understands the rules for probate litigation and contesting a will can be critical to ensuring the deceased’s wishes are followed.
Many probate lawyers work on an hourly basis, and you will be billed for any time they spend working on your case. Whether they are answering questions, researching your probate issues, scheduling meetings or making copies, you will be billed. Generally billing is done in 15 minute increments.
Some states, such as California, have established fees by statute and they are based on the gross value of the estate. Fees are as follows: 4% on the first $100,000, 3% on the next $100,000, 2% on the next $800,000 and 1% on the next $9,000,000. Keep in mind these are the maximum fees which may be charged. If you choose, you can contract with a probate lawyer for an hourly rate instead.
As mentioned above, all fee agreements should be made in writing. Make sure you understand your state’s laws and your rights prior to signing any type of legal agreement with a probate attorney.
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