Probating an estate can be complex and confusing when a loved one passes away. Whether you are an executor, beneficiary, or family member, understanding the roles of a probate lawyer is essential to ensuring the proper handling of the estate. From filing the appropriate paperwork to guiding the process through the court system, a probate lawyer can provide invaluable assistance during this time. By the end of this post, you will better understand the different roles a probate attorney can play in an estate.
Identifying and Notifying Heirs
One of the primary roles of a probate lawyer is to identify and notify the heirs of the deceased. The process involves researching the departed’s family tree, including searching public records for any family members who might have a claim on the estate and other documents of marriage and adoption. The lawyer must identify and contact the correct heirs with notifications before distributing any assets.
The probate lawyer must then notify them of their status as an heir. Depending on the type of estate, the notification may need to be in person or through registered mail. The probate attorney must also help heirs understand their rights and obligations regarding the estate and assist them with filing any necessary paperwork or making decisions related to the distribution of assets. They must also answer any questions heirs may have and guide them throughout the process.
One of the primary roles of a probate lawyer is to help the executor of an estate collect all the assets belonging to the deceased. That includes the physical and monetary support of the estate, such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, stocks, bonds, and other valuable property. A probate lawyer will help the executor determine what assets belong to the estate and what they should distribute to beneficiaries. They can also help find assets that may not be on the list in the will, such as insurance policies and trusts.
The probate lawyer will also work with the executor to protect assets and ensure they are accurately appraised and valued before distribution. That is especially important if there are disputes between heirs regarding the value of certain assets. The lawyer will help ensure that the distribution is according to the wishes of the deceased and in a manner that avoids potential conflicts or disagreements between heirs.
Identify and Settle Descendant’s Debts
One of the essential roles of a probate lawyer in an estate is to identify and settle any debts the deceased had. Probate lawyers must investigate any records of assets and liabilities and advertise for any other potential creditors that may have claims against the estate. That can include credit cards, loans, mortgages, taxes, or any other obligations the deceased had before their death. After identifying all potential creditors, it is then the job of the probate lawyer to contact them, explain the estate proceedings, and attempt to settle any outstanding debts.
A probate lawyer can help ensure proper settlement of any obligations of the deceased before distributing the assets to heirs. That may involve negotiating payment plans or settling accounts for less than the total amount owed. In addition to paying debts, probate lawyers are responsible for advertising the estate and allowing potential creditors to make claims. If necessary, a probate lawyer can file lawsuits against creditors who fail to comply with court orders.
Another critical role of a probate lawyer is to ensure proper filing and payment of all taxes related to the deceased’s estate. That includes both federal and state taxes, as well as any applicable local taxes. Depending on the size of the estate, the probate lawyer may need to hire an accountant or other tax specialist to assess the taxes owed accurately. The probate lawyer can then file the necessary forms with the relevant authorities and ensure timely payment of all due amounts.
The probate lawyer will help ensure the estate pays only what it owes and takes advantage of any available deductions and that all heirs receive the maximum benefit from their inheritance without running afoul of any applicable laws. It’s important to remember that taxes can be a significant source of confusion for those dealing with an estate. That’s why it’s essential to have a probate lawyer who is experienced in this area and can provide invaluable guidance and advice throughout the process.
Making Distribution to Appropriate Beneficiaries
Once a probate lawyer has identified the deceased’s assets and determined who is legally entitled to them, they must distribute them accordingly. That involves deciding which beneficiaries should receive what portion of the assets. When distributing the estate assets, a probate lawyer must ensure that each beneficiary gets what they should.
The probate lawyer needs to determine the legitimacy of all claims before deciding how to distribute the assets. That includes looking at wills, trusts, and other legal documents to verify the amount owed to each beneficiary. After making the necessary calculations and validating the claims of each beneficiary, the probate lawyer will transfer the assets to the appropriate individuals. Depending on the type of assets, this could involve transferring bank accounts, issuing checks, or facilitating real estate transactions per the law.
A probate lawyer is an essential part of the estate process. They are responsible for managing the estate’s affairs, including opening and closing it, identifying and notifying heirs, collecting assets, identifying and settling debts and taxes, and making distributions to beneficiaries. A knowledgeable probate attorney can guide the beneficiaries to ensure the entire process completes on time and the distribution of all assets is according to the law. With the proper support and advice, probate lawyers can help make this a smooth transition for everyone involved.