Losing a loved one is hard enough. You’ll have to organize the funeral, pack up their things, and then grieve on your own when it’s all over. While you might be able to get by on your own during this difficult time, you’ll definitely need help with one thing: the probate case.
Dealing with a probate case entails making sure your loved one’s will (which contains their last instructions and wishes, such as who they want to leave their possessions to) is followed to the letter. Probate cases should be handled by a specialist, which means you can’t hire a divorce lawyer or real estate lawyer. You need to work with a probate lawyer.
By definition, a probate lawyer is a special type of legal practitioner that uses their education and experience in the industry to advise executors (the personal representative of the deceased or “decedent”) on how they can get their loved one’s affairs in order. The field of probate law requires a lawyer to have an acceptable level of specialized experience. Dealing with the distribution of a person’s estate according to their will can take time. You need to hire someone who knows how to do it properly, especially because the people involved can’t help but be emotional in situations like this.
When getting a probate lawyer to help you with the last will and testament of your deceased loved one, you have two choices. You can hand the reins over to an experienced professional and let them handle your probate case, or you can try to do it on your own and just consult with them if and when you need to.
What happens when you turn over your whole probate case to a lawyer?
Letting a probate lawyer take over will make the process a whole lot smoother, but you’ll still be involved to a certain degree. If you put a probate lawyer in charge of your case, you can rest assured knowing that it’s being handled properly and that everything will work out fine. Having a professional prepare and file all the necessary paperwork is a sign that your case will be in good hands. While it may be rare among executors, having a probate lawyer on board will help ensure that everyone (including yourself) will get exactly what they are supposed to.
Here are a few responsibilities you may have to take on (or assign to any other beneficiary or executor) during the whole process:
● Come up with an inventory of the property in the estate
● Deposit the original will with the appropriate probate court
● Have valuable property appraised, if necessary
● Order certified copies of the death certificate
● Prepare and file the deceased’s final income tax return
● Prepare and file an income tax return for the estate, if necessary
Getting a probate lawyer as a coach, and how you can work with them
A probate lawyer can also serve as a coach or consultant during the entire process, should you decide to handle it yourself. Most probate lawyers offer “unbundled services” (a term for limited legal advice or assistance) that you can take advantage of if you need any help. You can ask for help with specific questions, or help you figure out what you should do next. That has become a more popular option of late, as more probate courts provide fill-in-the-blanks probate forms that executors can simply fill out themselves.
In order to work well with a probate lawyer, you’ll have to set some ground rules. Figure out who should do what in order to avoid doing more than what is necessary. Aside from working with a probate lawyer, you’ll definitely want to keep in touch with the other executors and keep them updated on how the process is going. That will help you should they suddenly object to how you’re handling things.