Top 5 Things to Do Before You Hire a Probate Attorney
Where there is a will, there are definitely many things that could go wrong. Dealing with the death of someone dear can be difficult. The grieving, the memories, the estate, or the debt left behind can be overwhelming to handle. If the terms included in the will that was drafted and signed are simple, the executor can easily distribute the estate among the beneficiaries.
However, the situation transforms completely when there is no will, no beneficiaries, and lots of debt to be handled. In these cases, probate will be needed. To navigate your probate faster and smoother, hiring a specialized lawyer is a good idea. Probate lawyers will be able to help you manage everything from estate taxes, correctly filling in the documents, accessing the assets, or mediating potential conflicts between beneficiaries.
In this article, we will have a look at five things you want to do and pay attention to before hiring your probate lawyer.
- Assess your situation
The first thing you want to do before choosing your lawyer is to assess your situation. There are rarely two identical wills. Everyone has different wishes, estates, and values. Some people might leave behind material things such as money, properties, and other valuables, while others might leave behind less tangible requests such as guardianship for their children.
Depending on your current age, status, and situation, you might want to look into probate lawyers that specialize in your type of will and estate planning. If you want to leave behind a generous sum of money, then you might want to look into a probate lawyer that knows all about how to handle and distribute it correctly. Avoid lawyers that do probate as a side hustle and choose a professional probate attorney to help you out.
- Sympathy can get you a long way
The next thing you want to consider before hiring your probate attorney is if they are sympathetic to you and your needs or not. Just like in any other business, lawyers will provide you with their services in exchange for monetary compensation. However, by definition, probates involve death, loss, and suffering. The last thing you want to do is to hire a probate lawyer that is insensible to your situation and the wishes of the deceased.
Jeff B., Springfield probate attorney, advises to “look for lawyers that are sympathetic, compassionate, and understanding of your situation. Look for someone who can answer all your questions without annoyance and with utmost patience. Some characteristics you want to look for in your next probate lawyer are sympathy, availability to answer your questions, knowledge, objectivity, and sincerity.”
The characteristics you want to avoid in a probate lawyer are insensitivity, unavailability, lack of knowledge, and the tendency to make rushed decisions.
- Prepare the paperwork
Hiring a probate attorney does not mean that your job is done and that there is nothing else left for you to do. On the contrary, this is when your actions and your implication are needed the most.
To ensure that the process will go smooth and to avoid any potential problems that might arise, you want to start collecting and preparing all the paperwork. The more documents you manage to provide your lawyer with, the better the chances to have a successful probate process.
Some of the most important documents you want to collect are the death certificate or a copy of it, the last will of the deceased, any codicils the person might have left behind, bank statements, any financial document you have access to, a list of all the assets your loved one left behind, and a list of the people named in the will (make sure to include their names, their addresses, or any other relevant contact information you might have from them).
- Understand the process and the costs involved
Another thing you might want to do before you hire your probate lawyer is to understand the process and what it involves, and the potential financial burden it might have on you. You would be surprised to find just how many people are not aware of the fact that not every death leads to probate.
Probate refers to the process of legally distributing and transferring assets after one’s death. It is commonly encountered when the deceased’s estate is listed only in their name. The higher the sum of money, or the number of properties and assets that have to be transferred to the heirs, the higher the chances to deal with probate.
At the same time, make sure to ask about the costs involved, and how much you will be able to get back. Check whether the lawyer will ask for a flat rate or an hourly one and what it covers. Find out if you are eligible for compensation for your executor role. The more you know, the better you will be prepared to handle the process and its costs.
- Check-in with the family
The last thing you want to do before hiring your probate attorney is to check in with your family and determine the level of potential resistance. Even the closest family members turn into enemies when faced with the decision of splitting the inheritance of a loved one. The more extended and intertwined a family is, the greater the chances for drama and troubles.
Communicate this with your lawyer if you are aware of bad family relationships or if you sense any potential threats coming from their side. This way, if any of the members will contest the will, you and your lawyer will be prepared to handle the situation.
Understand that the will can come with both assets and debts that have to be paid. If you are the executor and you have to carry out the final wishes of your loved one, be prepared to be put in a compromising position with the other members of your family.
Finally, dealing with both the loss of a loved one and carrying out their last wishes can be emotionally and physically draining. To ease some of the stress, you want to hire a professional probate lawyer who will help guide you through this challenging time in your life.