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When do I need to hire a probate attorney?
The probate process can be a tricky thing. The length and cost of probate can be heavily influenced by family conflict and estate complexities. Whether or not you ultimately chose to hire a lawyer, you should make sure you are familiar with your local probate laws. In the answer below, we will address the best time to hire a probate attorney.
The role a probate attorney plays
Before deciding when (or if) you need a probate attorney, you need to understand what exactly a probate attorney does. A probate lawyer is a state licensed attorney who works with the executors and the beneficiaries of an estate to settle the affairs of the decedent.
A probate lawyer can assist in many of the responsibilities throughout the probate process. They can ensure that any documents required by the probate court are filed in an appropriate manner and timely fashion. Probate lawyers can help identify and secure probate assets, and help obtain appraisals for any of the deceased party’s property.
Additionally, probate attorneys can advise on the payment of the deceased person’s bills and outstanding debts, and keep track of the estate’s checking accounts. They can also manage the payment of any relevant estate and inheritance taxes, and make sure any income tax concerns are promptly addressed.
On top of these matters, probate lawyers also frequently assist with settling disputes, the sale of estate property, and distributing assets.
Questions to ask before hiring a probate attorney
Can the decedent’s assets be transferred outside of Probate?
- Living trusts, joint ownership property, and accounts with beneficiary designations can all be transferred without going through the probate process in Texas. If these are the only types of assets that need to be transferred, a lawyer may not be necessary.
Does the estate owe federal estate taxes?
- In the state of Texas, an estate valued over 5.3 million for a single individual and 10.6 million for a couple is subject to federal estate tax. If the decedent’s estate is subject to federal income tax, the process can become more complex and it might help to hire a lawyer.
Will the estate be able to pay off all existing debt?
- If the estate is not large enough to pay all of the debts you should contact a probate lawyer to help you figure out how to pay the debts off. You should under no circumstances pay off these other debts without consulting a lawyer in advance.
When there is not a will
When someone dies without having signed a will it is said that the individual has died intestate. In this situation, the estate is divided according to the laws of the state where the property resides, regardless of the family’s desires.
In these situations, it is best to consult with a probate lawyer to assist the administrator of the estate, so the assets can be distributed as per the state law. A probate attorney can help with the tasks listed above, as well as assist in the proper navigation through the court system.