Interestingly, not all probate proceedings would require the assistance of a probate attorney. As the executor, it is possible that the available will is very straightforward, and the assets are few and simple. Here, you can choose to carry out all your duties without external assistance.
Note that your duties include:
- Filing a petition alongside the Will to the probate court
- Notifying the public that probate has commenced
- Inventorying and valuating the estate
- Paying estate taxes, debts, and other probate expenses
- Distributing the estate according to the will.
These can sometimes be straightforward, and you may not need to hire an attorney; emphasis on “sometimes”.
So why should you hire an attorney even when a will is available?
7 Reasons why you should hire a probate attorney when a will is available
1. The will and estate is complex
Some wills are not so straightforward. There may be so many assets and beneficiaries addressed, and you may not fully understand what the decedent meant. The situation gets worse when there are discrepancies here and there. Possibly the testator addressed an asset which should not have gone into a will, such as life insurance proceeds. It could also be that the decedent laid down instructions to pass a company to his son, John, but that company cannot easily be passed because of how it is owned. Or maybe an asset needs to be liquidated in order to have funds to disburse. In such cases, you would need the guidance of an experienced probate attorney to know what steps to take.
2. Properties are owned in multiple states
Even when a will exists, the decedent may own properties in multiple states. If this is the case, probate would have to be conducted in each state where property is located. But most US states do not always allow out-of-state executors to serve. For example, a Surrogate’s Court in New York may reject an executor who is not a resident of New York. If you are facing such a challenge, it is important to speak with a New York probate attorney to know what to do.
3. Will contests
During probate, any concerned party may challenge the validity of the will. Someone may feel that the will was signed under duress in order to benefit one party and disinherit another. If this is you, then it is in your best interest to get legal representation from a probate attorney to advocate your claim.
4. Estate litigation
Estate litigation ensues when two or more parties disagree over how the estate should be distributed. It typically occurs amongst family members squabbling over property. When a probate attorney is present to educate the family about the will and probate process, they are less likely to fight over what is written in stone. More so, the attorney may help them resolve their dispute amicably without going to court to litigate. However, if estate litigation is inevitable, then you would need to hire a probate litigation attorney to represent you in court.
5. Probate goes on much faster when experienced hands are on deck
There is so much for the executor to do and if he lacks the experience, things will definitely get on at a snail’s pace. On the other hand, a probate attorney will bring their expertise to the table, avoid costly mistakes, and hence allow the process to proceed much quickly.
6. Your probate lawyer helps you file tax return forms and other paperwork
There is so much paperwork involved with probate and a little mistake can bring grave accusations against you. Simply missing the deadline to file the tax return form can lead to a penalty. It is imperative you get all the paperwork work right to avoid serious implications. Instead of trying so hard to wrap your head around the whole legal jargon, get help from a probate attorney. Due to their experience in such matters, probate will go on much faster.
7. There are insufficient funds in the estate
Most states have a priority of claims which is an order by which funds must be distributed. In New York for example, tax and creditors must be settled before beneficiaries. If the funds are insufficient to settle all creditors, then you would have to determine who to pay and who not to pay. The guidance of a probate attorney becomes invaluable. Having a probate attorney helps you and the family to avoid making costly mistakes.
A probate attorney helps you get it right
Do not make things more difficult for yourself trying to figure out something you are not cut out for. Probate is a legal matter and as such requires legal handling. To avoid making mistakes that will hunt you, get help from a probate attorney today.