A probate lawyer, or sometimes called a probate solicitor, can help family members settle debts and distribute assets following the passing of a loved on. Generally speaking, probate lawyers help the executor of the estate manage the probate process. They may also help with estate planning, the drafting of wills or living trusts, or give advice on powers of attorney.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
What the lawyer does depends on whether the decedent has drafted a will prior to their death.
If there is a will, a probate lawyer may be hired to advise parties on various legal matters. For example, the lawyer may review the will to check it wasn’t written under duress, or against the best interests of the individual. Most wills go through probate without a problem, but there are some instances where the will may be challenged, which is when a probate solicitor would get involved.
When there is no will the person is said to have died ‘intestate’. When this happens the estate will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of the area the property is in. If, for example, the person is married then the surviving spouse will receive the property. In these circumstances a probate solicitor may be instructed to assist the administrator of the estate.
If the person has died without a will, one of the relatives will be the administrator. A relative who wants to be the estates administrator must first secure ‘renunciations’ from the deceased’s other relatives. A renunciation is a legal statement renouncing one’s right to administer the estate. A probate solicitor can help secure and file these legal statements, and following these steps they can then help the administrator with the probate process.
On top of the aforementioned points, a probate lawyer may also be responsible for any of the following tasks:
- Collecting and managing life insurance policies.
- Getting the deceased’s property appraised.
- Finding and securing the deceased’s assets.
- Advising on how to pay the deceased’s bills and settle their debts.
- Preparing/ filing documents as required by a probate court.
- Managing the estates checkbook.
- Determining whether any estate taxes are owed.