Do You Need A Probate Lawyer? 3 Questions To Ask
Do you have a loved one who recently passed away? Are you the executor on the estate? If so, you may find it helpful to hire a probate lawyer to guide the estate through the probate process. A lawyer can help you with some of the more complicated aspects of probate and can take care of administrative duties that you may not have time for. However, there may be some situations in which an attorney isn't necessary. Ask yourself the following three questions to determine whether a probate lawyer is right for you:
How much of the assets fall outside of probate? Not every asset has to go through the probate process. For example, assets that have beneficiary designations, like life insurance and qualified retirement plans, usually avoid probate. The same is true of jointly-held accounts and assets that are inside of a trust.
Some people will take great care to structure their assets so they mostly avoid probate. If your loved one did this, then probate may only apply to handful of accounts. If that's the case, it may not be worthwhile to hire a probate lawyer. However, if most of the estate's assets will go through probate, then a lawyer could be a good idea.
Does your state have a small estate procedure? And does this estate qualify? Some states have simplified procedures set up specifically for small estates. These simplified procedures usually just involve a sworn statement from the executor that the assets have been distributed to the deceased's heirs. In many cases, the entire process is done out of court. Each state has its own requirements for a simplified probate process. However, if your loved one's estate qualifies, you may not have much need for a lawyer.
Does the estate have enough money to pay all debts? Very often, people leave behind a trail of debts and medical bills. Those bills usually have to be paid before any assets can be distributed. In many cases, the estate may not have enough cash on hand to cover those debts. If that's the case, then you'll probably need a probate lawyer like David R Webb Attorney. The lawyer can prioritize creditors and then negotiate settlements and payment plans. However, if the estate has little debt or has enough cash to cover debts, then you may be able to handle this part of the process without a lawyer.
If you're unsure about whether a lawyer is needed, simply set up an appointment to visit with an attorney. He or she can review the estate and then advise you on whether you need help.