In the aftermath of a loved one's passing, families often find themselves confronted with a complex web of legalities associated with the deceased's estate. This is where the expertise of a probate lawyer becomes invaluable. Here's a look at the range of services that a probate lawyer provides.
Estate Planning Consultation
While many associate probate lawyers deal exclusively with the aftermath of death, their services are also crucial in preemptive estate planning. They assist clients in drafting and updating wills, creating trusts, designating beneficiaries, and ensuring that all documents are legally sound and reflective of the client's wishes.
Validation of the Last Will and Testament
One of the foremost duties of a probate lawyer is to validate the authenticity of the deceased's last will and testament if one exists. They present the will to the probate court, ensuring it meets the state's legal standards. In cases where doubts arise regarding the document's legitimacy, the lawyer offers evidence to support its authenticity.
Representation in Probate Court
A probate lawyer acts as the representative of an estate in probate court. This includes filing necessary documents, paying court fees, attending court hearings, and addressing any legal challenges or disputes that may arise during the probate process.
Asset Inventory and Appraisal
After the validation of the will, a probate lawyer assists the executor in identifying and cataloging all of the deceased's assets. This can range from real estate and valuable possessions to bank accounts and stocks. The lawyer may also commission professional appraisers to determine the current market value of these assets.
Settling Debts and Taxes
Before the distribution of an estate, all outstanding debts and taxes of the deceased must be addressed. A probate lawyer advises on which debts are legitimate, ensuring that creditors are duly paid from the estate's funds. Additionally, they assist in preparing and filing tax returns on behalf of the estate, making certain all tax obligations are met.
After debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets are distributed among the beneficiaries as outlined in the will. If there is no will, the distribution follows state intestacy laws.
A probate lawyer oversees this distribution, ensuring that all parties receive their rightful inheritance and resolving any disputes that might emerge among heirs or beneficiaries.
Disputes can often arise during the probate process, whether they pertain to the validity of the will, the interpretation of its terms, or disagreements among beneficiaries. In such instances, a probate lawyer offers litigation support, representing the estate or beneficiaries in court to ensure a just resolution.
Contact a local probate lawyer to learn more.