Do I Really Need a Probate Lawyer?

For many people, managing the estate for someone who has passed away is something that they either haven’t thought about or have never had to deal with in their lives. However, it is almost inevitable that at some point in your life, you will be faced with a situation in which someone you know dies and you ask yourself, do I really need a lawyer to help me handle this?

What is probate and how does it work?

In general, the word probate refers to the way someone’s assets are handled and distributed after they pass away. If there is a will, this involves executing the will and settling any debt and other issues outside of that document. If there is no will, probate law specifies how and to whom the assets should be transferred.

The usual process for settling an estate may include the following (however it may vary from state to state):

  1. After an individual passes away, a petition is filed with the court to name the person responsible for their estate and to officially open the estate.
  2. A notice of creditors is printed in the newspaper so that creditors can file claims with the estate.
  3. Other interested parties are notified, such as potential heirs.
  4. All creditor claims that are filed within the appropriate time limits are settled.
  5. The remaining assets are distributed according to the will or relevant laws if there is no will.
  6. A petition for discharge is filed with the court to close the estate.

The big decision

For those smart enough to plan for these considerations before time, there are things you can do to make things easier on everyone. If you are trying to keep your estate out of probate or trying to avoid any challenges after the fact, it is a good idea to contact a probate lawyer as you draft a will and conduct any additional estate planning.

However, if you are charged with handling someone else’s estate after they pass away, hiring a probate lawyer can be a smart decision to ensure that you are executing your responsibilities properly. Finally, if you have concerns about the estate of someone close to you who has passed away or do not think that it is being handled appropriately and want to challenge an issue, it is definitely a good idea to hire a probate lawyer both to discuss the merits of a challenge and to represent you in this matter.

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