What is a Probate Attorney?
Jill walks up to me at a networking event. We talk about what we both do for a living. I mention that I do estate planning and probate. Jill goes “What is a probate attorney?” We began an in-depth conversation about the subject. Read on to learn more.
Estate Attorney v. Probate Attorney
First, let’s talk about the difference between an estate attorney and a probate attorney. An estate attorney works with you in creating an estate plan. Your estate plan consists of a Will and /or Trust, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney. You visit an estate planning attorney to make sure your loved ones are not left with a mess when you die.
Estate lawyers help clients state their wishes as to who will receive assets from then at death. These lawyers also advise their clients on money-saving tips for tax and probate costs. Think of your estate planning attorney as the one who helps you create a plan to make sure your affairs are carried out smoothly when you pass.
On the other hand, a probate attorney helps your loved ones administer your estate when you die. This process is known as estate administration.
A probate attorney serves in both an advisory and active role in an estate administration. Some people will schedule an initial visit with a probate attorney after a loved one dies. At that visit, the attorney explains the role of the executor or administrator. He or she advises what type of estate administration is needed. Further, the lawyer explains the probate process steps to the client.
Other times, the client hires the probate lawyer to handle the estate administration process. What does this mean? The attorney completes all the necessary paperwork. The attorney also goes to the probate court hearings.
What is Probate?
But first, let’s talk about what do we mean when we say “probate.” Probate is the official process that takes place after you die. It is the process that settles your estate.
If there is a will, you admit the will to the probate you. You petition the court to be appointed as legal representative of the deceased person. You then begin collecting all of the deceased person’s assets; notifying creditors and distributing the assets to the proper heirs.
What are the Goals of Probate?
- Filing the Will, if there is one with the probate court;
- Identifying the appropriate heirs;
- Appointing an Executor or Administrator;
- Payment of any debts owed by the deceased person;
- Identifying all of the assets owned by the deceased person at his or her death;
- Distribute the property as directed by the Will or by the intestate statute if there is no will.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
So, how can a probate attorney assist you? Let me tell you some of the ways they can assist you.
First, a probate attorney explains a deceased person’s will or trust to you. He or she explains the terms and advises of the executor’s role. The attorney will also ask you what assets were owned by the deceased person. He or she also asks whether those assets were owned solely by the decedent or was there a co-owner.
Once assets are identified and ownership clarified, the probate attorney advises you as to what steps you need to take next. The attorney counsels you on such matter as: what assets need to go through probate court; what you need to start the probate process; and your duties in handling the estate.
Typical Probate Attorney Tasks
Probate Attorneys perform any of the following tasks:
- Preparing the necessary documents to open up an estate;
- Filing the necessary documents with the probate court;
- Help you identify and locate the decedent’s assets;
- Help you obtain appraisals of property if needed;
- Publish a Creditor Claim Ad in local newspaper;
- Assist you in negotiating with creditors;
- Advise you on setting inventory values;
- Help you with making distributions to the beneficiaries
How a Probate Attorney Can Help You
If a loved one passes away, a probate attorney can guide you through the probate process. He or she offers advice on what needs to be done regarding administration of the estate. A probate attorney can also counsel you as to what you need to get done.
For my clients, I often serve as a shoulder to cry on or the voice of reason when they need me.
If you need help with handling a loved one’s affairs after he or she passes, please contact us.