A probate lawyer is one who specializes in handling an estate after a person is deceased and ensures that the wishes of that person are carried out within the boundaries of local laws. Whether or not an estate winds up in probate court after a person dies often depends on the laws of that area. Whether the process is quick and easy will also depend on the estate itself, directions in a will, and so on. Note when you might want to consider hiring a probate lawyer to get you through the process.
1. Are there "small estate" provisions in your area?
In some areas, a small estate or those that don't include many assets and much money might qualify for a certain status that moves them through the probate process very quickly. You may avoid delays and certain court hearings if you can have an estate qualify for this designation. A probate lawyer can review the estate, the will, and all other details and see about having your estate qualify. In turn, the estate can be settled quickly and funds or other property dispersed more quickly as well.
2. Is there a business or other assets involved beyond standard household goods?
Dividing up household goods, a personal checking and savings account may be very easy and not require much intervention from courts or an attorney. However, if there is a business, commercial real estate, and items beyond standard household goods, the estate may be held up in probate court for much longer than usual. Business debts may need to be considered and there may be other partners or those with an interest in the business or property that have first rights to them. If this is the case, a probate attorney can help guide you through the probate process more quickly and easily.
3. Are there excessive debts attached to the estate?
Just about every estate will face debts, including funeral and burial costs, final income taxes, and the like. However, if there are liens on a property, tax debts beyond the value of the estate, and the like, you may want to consult with a probate attorney. He or she can advise you on how to settle these debts while still protecting the value of the estate. Also, laws may give certain creditors priority over others, so you never want to start paying these bills until you speak to a probate attorney to see if those laws would apply in your case.