What Does a Probate Lawyer Do

Legal Article

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do

When someone passes away, their assets—whether they consist of real estate, financial accounts, or personal property—must pass through probate if they are not placed into a trust. There are many complex and moving parts that one must navigate if they are to successfully complete the probate process. Thus, hiring a knowledgeable and experienced probate lawyer can help you and your family quickly and easily complete probate. Antonoplos & Associates group of probate attorneys have over 20 years of experience, integrity, and credibility helping clients initiate, work through, and settle their probate case.

What is Probate

Probate is the court proceeding where a will is verified, and an estate is administered according to the terms of the will. Probate is also used where no will exists, in which case an estate will be administered under the terms of DC law. The process includes the collection of assets, the liquidation of liabilities, the payment of taxes, and the distribution of property to heirs. Our lawyers provide representation in both probate and estate administration.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do

A probate lawyer can take care of or help the estate with many legal issues. However, the majority of what a probate lawyer does will largely depend on whether the estate going through probate has a will.

When There Is a Will

If someone dies with a will, a probate lawyer will typically focus on advising members of the estate such as the executor, personal representative, or beneficiary on legal issues. For example, a probate lawyer might help the estate by reviewing the principal’s will to ensure that the principal did not sign or create the will under duress. This is an extremely important portion of the process as if someone challenges the will during the probate process, the court will have to stop what they are doing and have a formal hearing where they review the validity of a will.

When There is No Will

If someone passes away without creating a will, the person is said to have died “intestate.” If you die under the intestate definition, the administrator of the estate will have to distribute all the assets within an estate according to a state’s intestacy laws. If this occurs, the assets will not be distributed to the beneficiaries according to the principal’s wishes. For example, if the person who dies has a spouse, the spouse will likely receive all the estates assets. However, each state has different intestacy laws so the distribution of assets to family members could vary widely.

In cases of intestacy, a probate lawyer will typically assist the administrator of the estate with distributing the assets within the estate according to the laws of the state. A probate attorney must still follow the state laws regarding the distribution of assets. However, having someone with knowledge of these laws is invaluable as they are able to ensure that the assets are distributed quickly and done so without breaking any state laws.

Finally, a probate attorney can help someone secure and file the documents required for a probate court to appoint someone as the administrator of the estate. For a court to name someone as the administrator of an estate, the person must secure “renunciations”. Renunciations come from the other relatives of the person that died. A renunciation is simply a legal statement renouncing one’s right to administer the estate.

Dealing with Creditors and Beneficiaries

A probate lawyer can be especially helpful when dealing with creditors or other beneficiaries. Initially, the court appoints a personal representative to an estate. Once this occurs, a Notice of Appointment, Notice to Creditors, and Notice to Unknown heirs must be published by the personal representative in local newspapers where the principal of the estate lived. After this, creditors to the principal will have six months after the first publication to file claims against the estate. Once this period passes, creditors cannot bring forth claims. A probate attorney will help you notify creditors by ensuring that you make an informative ad and place the ad into the proper newspapers to avoid a creditor bringing litigation against you or the estate.

A probate lawyer can help you while you are dealing with creditors to an estate. However, they are even more useful when working with other beneficiaries to the estate. If everyone that is a beneficiary to an estate gets along, the process of distributing assets can be informal. In this scenario, a lawyer may not always be necessary. However, if you are a personal representative of an estate that has unsatisfied beneficiaries, a lawyer will be extremely useful to make or advise you on when to write letters, send emails, and make phone calls. By having a lawyer assist you with this portion of your duties, you will eliminate the opportunity for beneficiaries to bring forth any legal action against you.

Other Common Ways a Probate Lawyer can Help

In addition to the actions described above, a probate lawyer can help an estate with the following actions:

  • Collecting proceeds from life insurance policies
  • Identifying and securing estate assets
  • Obtaining appraisals for the decedent’s real property
  • Assisting in the payment of bills and debts
  • Preparing and filing all documents required by a probate court
  • Determining if any estate or inheritance taxes are due, and making sure the estate pays these debts
  • Resolving income tax issues
  • Managing the estate checking account
  • Transferring assets in the decedent’s name to the appropriate beneficiaries
  • Making a final disbursement of assets to beneficiaries after all bills and taxes have been paid

Final Thoughts

Antonoplos & Associates has a strong background in taxation representation. Thus, our attorneys bring a unique point of view to all areas of estate planning including:

  • Probate avoidance
  • Probate litigation
  • Trustees and guardianships
  • Executors
  • Joint tenants
  • Separate and community property
  • Right of survivorship and intestate succession

When you work with the skilled lawyers of Antonoplos & Associates, you will find everything you need to know about probate.

Contact our DC Attorneys for More Information

For more information regarding what does a probate lawyer do, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding probate law, check out our blog.