When someone dies, their property may go through probate. But what is probate, you may ask?
The simple definition of probate is a legal process that verifies a deceased person’s last will. Note that even if someone dies intestate or without making a will, their property must go through this process. The court will then determine who the beneficiaries of the estate are. For anyone in this situation, the support of a skilled probate attorney is invaluable, as they make probate easy.
Ways Attorneys Simplify the Probate Process
The legal framework of probate is challenging to wade through if you do not have any legal knowledge or skills. Plus, the process can get complicated and expensive if not handled properly. A report by Investopedia reveals that probate costs 3% to 7% of the estate’s value and sometimes much more, depending on the process. Because probate attorneys understand legal jargon, they interpret it to the deceased’s family so they can make informed decisions.
Lawyers also provide guidance and support to ensure the beneficiaries do not go through the probate process alone. Whether your loved one left behind a simple will or complex estate, here are ways a professional attorney can simplify the probate process.
Interpret Wills and Trusts
Probate lawyers are keen to explain legal language to help clients understand what the deceased’s will entails. The attorney will examine every clause of the will or trust carefully, then break down confusing terms according to state laws and ethics. Doing so helps ensure the fulfillment of the last wishes of the decedent. By interpreting wills and trusts correctly, probate lawyers help prevent misunderstandings between beneficiaries, allowing for a smooth estate transfer.
Handle Court Proceedings
Probate lawyers understand how handling estate settlement while mourning the death of a loved one can be challenging. So, they strive to make the court process hassle-free by:
- filing petitions
- notifying creditors
- presenting the deceased’s accounts
Experienced probate attorneys know which documents to present to court and how to comply with the law. They will also evaluate the deceased’s estate to determine the possibility of a summary administration (a faster probate process) and advise the way forward.
State laws and the size of the estate are the top factors that complicate the probate process, but so do the beneficiaries. In most cases, heirs of an estate get into disputes when challenging the will’s validity in court. Concerns about improper administration of the estate could also cause conflicts. According to haysfirm.com, disputes that arise during probate require legal intervention. It is, therefore, crucial to hire an attorney with a good reputation for mediating between parties and offering fair solutions. If conflicts between heirs escalate, the probate lawyer can present the issues revolving around the deceased’s estate to court. That way, the interests of the will or trust can be protected and a lasting solution found.
Settle Debts and Taxes
One of the excellent benefits of hiring an on-demand lawyer for probate is settling outstanding debts and taxes of the decedent. In this case, a lawyer will identify creditors and confirm their claims. This step ensures the deceased’s debts are paid to the right creditors and in the correct order of priority. As experts in tax law, probate lawyers can help you and other beneficiaries prepare estate tax returns and the decedent’s final tax returns. Their expertise in tax law helps reduce the estate’s tax liability and prevent fines or penalties linked to tax debts.
Transfer Assets to Beneficiaries
Distributing the deceased’s remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries sounds easy. However, it can be difficult as it requires careful calculation of each beneficiary’s share per the will. A lawyer can help streamline the process by identifying the deceased’s estate or property. Assets probate lawyers consider are:
- real estate owned solely by the decedent
- personal bank accounts
- vehicles and other valuables like jewelry
- retirement accounts
- joint property and bank accounts
- life insurance with named beneficiaries
Once the lawyer has listed all the assets, they ensure the named beneficiaries receive the share outlined in the will. If the last testament of the deceased has specific conditions, like holding assets allocated to minors in a trust, the lawyer will interpret and meet the terms.
The settlement of an estate left behind by a deceased person can be stressful. The legal language, court proceedings, filing tax returns, paying debts, and distributing assets can be time-consuming and difficult. For these reasons, hiring a probate lawyer makes sense. These legal professionals will provide guidance and support during and after validating the decedent’s will and trust. They will manage the deceased’s accounts and pay debts, file taxes, and distribute the property to each beneficiary according to the terms of the will.