What is the role of a probate attorney?
Among the several responsibilities assigned to probate lawyers, estate lawyers (also known as estate attorneys) are responsible for guiding a personal representative through the full probate procedure from beginning to end.
The manner in which an estate is probated, as well as the processes involved, are highly dependent on the probate rules of the state in which the decedent resided at the time of death, as well as any other states in which the decedent possessed real estate. According to The Balance, Florida allows for two distinct probate processes, both of which are dependent on the value of the decedent’s probate estate, the estate’s valuation, and the length of the decedent’s death.
What does a probate attorney do?
A significant portion of a probate lawyer’s duty is contingent upon the decedent dying testate, or with a valid final will and testament. As a result, persons who die without a final will and testament are referred to as intestate.
If this occurs, the probate lawyer’s knowledge of the probate laws of the states in which the practitioner is licensed to practice must be extensive.
Additionally, a probate attorney can be retained to assist an estate’s beneficiary on legal and other concerns brought to the beneficiary’s attention by the personal representative during the probate process.
Probate attorneys are also beneficial in facilitating negotiations between a beneficiary and a personal representative with whom the beneficiary does not get along or is unfamiliar.
Probate attorney and probate law
Even if you are in your first, second, or third year of law school – or even if you are not yet enrolled in law school – it is always beneficial to be familiar with the many practice areas available to lawyers who specialize in particular topics of law.
- Corporate law – which is typically concerned with business transactions that occur within huge businesses.
- Family law – which is concerned with the protection and representation of individuals involved in family-related matters such as wills, estates, and other legal entanglements. Family law includes adoption, custody, and divorce.
- Bankruptcy law – which is concerned with matters of money and finance (or a lack thereof).
- Employment law – which is frequently concerned with employee and employer rights in relation to compensation, termination, harassment, and workplace safety, among other things.
- And more
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of legal implications. Law has several applications in life, and many of those applications require legal counsel at some time. From the military to personal injury, it appears as though there is a lawyer for every situation.
Probate law is a sort of legal activity that does not receive the same level of exposure as criminal law or, in certain situations, corporate law, when millions, if not billions, of dollars, are at play. No, probate law is a relatively unheralded branch of the legal tree, but one that is required, particularly if you or a loved one has an interest in a deceased relative’s or friend’s assets and/or property.
How a personal representative is advised and assisted by a probate attorney?
When a probate attorney represents the personal representative of an estate, he or she advises and aids with the following:
Probate attorney roles
- Locates and secures assets in both probate and non-probate situations.
- Collects and appraises all of the decedent’s property at the time of his or her death.
- Prepares and timely files any paperwork requested by the probate court.
- Collects proceeds from life insurance policies.
- Rolls over and makes suitable retirement plan selections, such as IRAs and 401(k)s.
- Provides guidance to the personal representative regarding the payment of the decedent’s final bills and unpaid debts.
- Maintains records for the estate’s checking account.
- Determines whether federal and state estate and/or inheritance taxes will be due, and if so, supports the personal representative in determining where the cash will come from to pay the taxes.
- Assists the personal representative in determining the appropriate manner in which income tax matters should be addressed.
- Disputes between personal representatives and beneficiaries are resolved.
- Assists in the estate sale process.
- Requests authorization from the court for a variety of actions needed by applicable state probate legislation.
- If the decedent’s real estate is not sold, it is retitled in the names of the estate beneficiaries.
- After paying debts and taxes, distributes what remains of the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries.
Unsung but Critical role of a probate attorney
Almost everyone – including our relatives, loved ones, and friends – has some quantity of assets or some form of an estate. And, frankly, if those same relatives, loved ones, and friends die with any form of assets, it is prudent for them to retain the services of a probate attorney.
It is far too difficult for a grieving personal representative to take on the estate’s responsibilities alone, especially if they lack the necessary legal understanding. Courts are difficult, as are state taxes, of course (California is a prime example).
And, as sad as your client may appear to be toward other relatives, there is a genuine truth in our culture that people – some of them complete strangers – come out of the woodwork following the death of someone whose inheritance these strangers may feel entitled to a piece of. This is where you, as a probate attorney, step in.
Not only do you safeguard the rights of true beneficiaries in the absence of a descendant’s final desires, but you also ensure that those beneficiaries receive the property allocated to them.
However, this is acceptable. A probate attorney represents a very distinct, yet equally significant, aspect of life that, depending on the value of a descendant’s estate, may nevertheless result in proper attorney-type reputation if the estate is sufficiently large. However, do not rely on it. Consider instead how your efforts as a probate attorney will ensure that what a descendant leaves behind is correctly dispersed to that loved one’s loved ones, as this will certainly benefit them in the absence of the descendant.
Probate law attorney: A summary
In summary, as probate law attorney, you, like many other attorneys in a variety of practice areas, will unavoidably assist individuals with their very real-world problems. A probate attorney is nothing less than that in terms of practice, legal recognition and significance, as well as general credit to people who require your legal competence.