When you start getting involved in estate planning, you will hear the term "probate" mentioned frequently. Your estate planner may also refer to themselves as a probate lawyer, or they might call themselves an estate attorney. Unlike other types of attorneys, such as those who practice in criminal or personal injury law, it is common for a client to have an ongoing professional arrangement with a probate lawyer that lasts for many years. The probate lawyer has many roles, and they are all critical to the proper execution of an estate.
The probate attorney advises the executor of an trust or will on the best way to handle the legal aspects of administering an estate when the estate owner passes on. It is always a good idea for an estate owner to find a good probate attorney early in life, and to make sure that the attorney is in constant contact with the estate executor.
The probate attorney can help to set up the estate, be the legal representative to guide the estate through probate after the passing of the estate owner, and help the executor to make decisions while the estate is in probate. The probate attorney can also act as a third-party in helping to settle disputes between the executor and estate beneficiaries.
The probate attorney is responsible for making sure that all necessary paperwork regarding the estate is completed in full and filed with the proper authorities. They are also the official entity that collects and distributes life insurance proceeds that are supposed to go through the estate.
One of the more challenging responsibilities of the probate attorney is paying off the final bills of the estate and satisfying all outstanding debts. This can be challenging because if the debts are substantial then paying those debts might require liquidating some of the estate that was designated for beneficiaries. It is up to the probate attorney to make sure that the estate is finalized to the letter of the law.
Some people have real estate as part of their trust or final estate, and that real estate has to be properly administered after the estate owner has passed on. The probate attorney is responsible for making sure that all of the estate properties are either transferred to beneficiaries properly, or that those properties are sold and the proceeds used to finalize the accounts of the estate.
The real estate part of administering an estate can become tricky because there could be funds left over after liquidating an estate, and the attorney has to work with the executor to decide how those funds are distributed. The attorney advises the executor on their legal obligations, and the executor has to make decisions on what to do with those funds.
A probate lawyer is one of those attorneys who works tirelessly in the background to make sure an estate is finalized properly. If conflict erupts during the probate process, the probate attorney is the one who advises the executor of the estate on how to handle the situation. Being a probate lawyer requires plenty of patience and a detailed understanding of the probate law for their state.