Probate:  Hire an attorney to avoid problems, delays and liability

Through the probate process an executor or personal representative is granted the authority to ascertain the assets and debts of the estate and make a distribution of the residual estate property to the heirs.  While probate may sound straight forward, the process is far from simple and carries a weight of responsibility.  If not done properly, probate can create personal liability for the person who is managing the estate.  Understanding and probating an estate without the assistance of an experienced attorney can be a confusing and time-consuming process, with plenty of room for error.  Here are 5 benefits to retaining a probate attorney.

  1. Starting off on the right foot. A probate attorney aware of deadlines for the IRS and initial court procedures that if missed, or done incorrectly, can cause great misery further down the road.  Getting the probate started quickly means bills can be paid faster and property can be protected, as well as ultimately expediting the distribution of funds to the heirs.  Probating an estate can take more than a year.  Errors will stall the process and delay distribution.  Hiring an attorney to probate the estate can help speed up the process.
  1. Save money. An experienced probate attorney guiding you through each step of the probate process will save time and money for the estate.  Probate attorneys negotiate with creditors to reduce balances and discard creditor claims that do not meet the standards required under applicable statues.  Probate attorneys can also tap into services that are the most affordable and the most efficient, such as auctions, cleaning and household repairs, real estate agents and the like.  Without the use of a probate attorney, many people fall prey to opportunists who overcharge for these services.  Good probate attorneys justify their fees in the savings they obtain for the estate, and by making each step in the process very efficient.
  1. Taxes and debts. Dealing with creditors and the IRS can be daunting.  Probate attorneys work with accountants, creditors and the IRS in a seamless fashion.  Resolving IRS issues and past taxes is critical to resolving an estate.  An executor or personal representative is personally responsible for the payment of taxes on an estate, so caution is essential and expertise is necessary.
  1. Disputes between heirs. Heirs can have disputes involving estate property.  A probate attorney can be relied upon to resolve such disputes because the attorney knows the standards by which the courts will hold each estate, as well as the probability of outcomes.  If a contest between heirs escalates, the attorney can push for resolution before the court.  Heir disputes require competent litigation attorneys with knowledge of the law in many different areas, such as real estate property, contracts and the like.
  1. Transparency and accountability. Heirs want to know that the estate has been managed correctly, and that all expenditures are valid and necessary.  As a check on the executor or personal representative, and also as a defense for legitimate expenses, the probate attorney’s role is to assure fairness and accuracy.  All expenditures are reviewed for this standard.  It is both a comfort and a protection to the executor or personal representative that a standard is being followed and enforced to present any unnecessary expense.

Probating an estate can be a difficult process.  If you have been named as an executor or personal representative, you are not alone. The estate is able to hire an attorney with the cost covered by the estate.


Posted in: Estate Planning

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