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What Exactly Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

Posted by Dana Law Group on April 8, 2021

When someone passes on, their estate usually goes through a process known as “probate.” During probate, an individual’s debts and assets will be identified. Their debts will be paid off and then their assets will be distributed in accordance to their will. Absent a will, rules of inheritance will apply. Depending on the complexity of the estate, someone might need a probate lawyer to navigate the process. Here’s what you need to know.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

A probate lawyer can work with the executor of the will or the beneficiary to help identify assets and debts and ultimately distribute the estate. Probate lawyers can also help act as an executor, by doing things like closing accounts, notifying debtors, and ordering death certificates.

Probate lawyers are commonly involved when there’s a dispute over the will or when there’s no will at all. Involving a probate lawyer early on is the best way to avoid complex legal issues down the line.

While there’s usually an executor for a will, issues can be too complex to unravel. Inheritance issues, for instance, can become complex — especially when a will isn’t updated. A will that gives a spouse everything becomes infinitely more complicated when said spouse remarried and then died, leaving behind stepchildren in addition to biological children.

It’s not always about asset inheritance. It’s also occasionally about debts. When someone dies, their debts have to be resolved before the inheritance is figured out. If an individual is suspicious of such debts, they need to resolve the suspicions before the money is released.

Once a probate lawyer is able to determine the assets and debts in the estate, they will be able to direct their client on the next step forward. Occasionally, this can mean going to court to dispute a will, or creating a legal arrangement to help with inheritance. Ultimately, probate lawyers will usually save the estate time and money, because they will be able to resolve the situation faster than the executor otherwise could.

Does a Probate Lawyer Help Design an Estate Plan?

A probate lawyer is used after an estate has entered into probate.

But a probate’s job can be made much easier if someone has already created an estate plan. An estate plan isn’t done through a probate lawyer but rather an estate lawyer. An estate lawyer helps their clients organize their estate in such a way that it shouldn’t be difficult to determine assets, debts, and beneficiaries later.

While a probate lawyer and an estate lawyer have much in common (especially in terms of understanding the laws relative to inheritance), they are involved in vastly different situations and vastly different times. However, there are some lawyers who specialize in both probate and estate law.

Do you need a probate lawyer? If you’re concerned about administering a will and estate (or if you feel as though you may not be receiving what you should after a loved one has passed), a probate lawyer may be ideal for you. Probate lawyers can help in situations in which inheritance is called into question as well as situations in which someone passes with considerable debt.