Before participating in any legal process, most people ask themselves: Should I hire a lawyer? Legal representation is certainly the right choice in many legal scenarios to ensure that you reach the desired outcome. But, do you need representation in probate?
You can reap several benefits by getting legal representation in your probate case. Below, we’ll discuss these benefits and their impact on the probate process.
BENEFIT #1: HELP UNDERSTANDING THE WILL AND STATE LAWS
A last will and testament is, after all, a legal document. So, understanding the full contents of a will with confidence can be difficult in some cases without professional legal insight. A probate attorney will help you fully understand the will and the succession laws in your state, ultimately helping you to establish the rightful heirs. This can clarify the decedent’s wishes so that you move forward as he or she would have wanted.
BENEFIT #2: HELP NAVIGATING FAMILY DISAGREEMENTS
After the death of a loved one, tensions among family members can run high in the probate process. Disputes among family members over the inheritance of assets and other aspects of a will can be damaging, especially if relatives end up going against one another in court.
Having an attorney to mitigate family struggles during the probate process can prevent a simple disagreement from escalating. Also, having both sides of a disagreement seek legal counsel can ensure that the dispute is handled properly and professionally, avoiding as much emotional damage as possible.
BENEFIT #3: HELP MANAGING COMPLEX OWNERSHIP SITUATIONS
Complicated legal documents may be involved in the ownership of certain assets, namely businesses and commercial real estate. These documents will need to be understood and pulled together for the probate process to progress.
BUSINESSES IN PROBATE
Businesses often have a single owner. When that owner passes away, the passing on of the business to a new owner will be a major step in the estate transfer and probate processes. Especially if a beneficiary wants to sell his or her share of the business, the services of an attorney can be a major help. The process of appraising and/or selling a business typically needs professional insight for the best result. In this situation, your attorney will work to gather and review assets and liabilities of the business so that it can be marketed with the best chance of success.
ESTATE TRANSFER WITH ROYALTIES
If royalties are also included in the decedent’s estate, they’ll be subject to probate. Royalties can involve complex agreements and documents that can be navigated more quickly and easily with the help of an attorney. After all, royalty revenue is challenging to foresee, which makes royalties a complicated asset to manage.
BENEFIT #4: HELP UNDERSTANDING AND PAYING ESTATE DEBTS
There are multiple expenses associated with the management of an estate and probate process. Final income taxes, estate taxes, funeral costs, and creditor debts are just a few examples of costs that will likely arise during the probate process.
A probate attorney can help you determine how to go about paying these debts. An attorney can also help you figure out if you owe estate tax, state and/or federal, in the first place. Most estates are exempt from estate tax under present law, so you can likely cross this expense off of your list entirely.
WHAT IF WE CAN’T AFFORD ESTATE EXPENSES?
If there aren’t enough funds in the estate to cover estate expenses, you should undoubtedly seek out a probate attorney. An attorney will be able to advise you based on state law, which dictates which creditors should be paid before others if funds are short.
BENEFIT #5: REVIEWING YOUR FINAL REPORT OF ACTIONS TO AVOID MISTAKES
Before you can distribute the decedent’s assets and close the probate case, you need to provide a final report of actions to the court. This document reports all actions taken over the course of the case and describes how the assets will be distributed.
By having an attorney review your final report of actions before presenting it to the court, you can avoid making mistakes that would prolong the probate process. Your attorney will ensure that the report is accurate and complete so that your probate case can come to a close.