Practice Area: Estate Planning
What is a Probate Lawyer?
Probate is a process that begins after a loved one’s passing. It is a legal proceeding for estate distribution that involves validating a will.
Whether you’re a strong-willed individual or not, probate can be a lengthy process, and trying to navigate it without a probate lawyer can make matters even more confusing.
If you’re the executor of a will, even if one has not been drafted, a probate attorney will help you get your rightful share of the estate.
At the same time, a probate lawyer holds all the qualifications to be your estate planning partner. It’s within their power to assist you when drafting a will, setting up a guardianship, and writing a trust.
Other related services include:
- Inventorying the estate’s assets
- Paying the estate’s debts
- Distributing the shares
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
Whether you’re a beneficiary or an executor of the will, a probate attorney will walk you through the process and ensure that the decision of a loved one who’s no longer with us is honored. In certain cases, probate can be avoided altogether if the assets are a part of a trust.
Note that a probate attorney can offer legal assistance in other related areas such as:
- Determining the sum of your real estate taxes (if any are owed)
- Offering advice on how to settle the decedent’s debt (if any)
- Property appraisal
- Determining the decedent’s assets
- Managing life insurance proceeds
- Filling out the probate documents
- Help with the sale of the property
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries
If the beneficiary and the executor are not on the friendliest terms, a probate lawyer will also advise you on what you can use as leverage during the negotiation and how to settle the dispute.
Depending on whether the decedent has drafted a will prior to their passing, there are two different scenarios that will unfold and we will walk you through the nuances of each:
When There Is a Will
Even in case, the decedent passed away with a will, you should still consider hiring a probate lawyer as doing so yields several benefits.
Consider the possibility that the decedent’s will may have been written and/or signed under duress – a probate attorney will investigate the matter on your behalf. Dementia, to name one example, is a common health condition that affects the elderly and those who suffer from it are more easily prone to manipulation or other underhanded tactics initiated by those who don’t have your best interests at heart.
When There Is No Will
If the decedent passed away without drafting a will, estate distribution proceedings will follow, during which the state will decide what goes to whom, irrespective of your personal wishes. Bear in mind that every state has different laws, so the specifics may vary.
In case the administrator of the estate requires assistance, a probate lawyer will step in and offer a hand. Those who want to assume the role of the estate’s administrator must first secure renunciations from other relatives of the decedent. A probate attorney can help secure them and be of assistance to the administrator during probate.
What’s the Difference Between a Probate and Estate Planning Lawyer?
Although probate and an estate planning attorney can both undertake similar tasks (and both of these terms can sometimes be used interchangeably), their role is not always the same.
In a typical scenario, a probate attorney oversees the process of estate administration after the passing of a loved one. On the other hand, an estate planning attorney is more focused on working with the living relatives to determine who is entitled to what. Once they reach an agreement, the attorney can also help them prepare the necessary documentation (wills, trusts, and so forth).
Do You Really Need a Probate Lawyer?
Whether you need a Jacksonville probate lawyer or not depends on your unique circumstances and variables at play. The size and value of the estate in question is a major contributing factor.
Consider things like:
- How familiar are you with estate planning and probate laws in Florida?
- Did the decedent have a trust in place or sign a will?
- Do your relatives get along with each other well?
- What is the size and value of the estate?
- Did the decedent have any outstanding debts?
- Is a probate imminent?
Whenever in doubt, you should always default to hiring a probate lawyer to stay on the safe side and see to it that your interests are represented during the court proceedings. If the decedent had a will, the probate will certainly take place and there is no way to avoid it.
The more complicated the matters seem to be, the greater the chance that trying to wing it on your own will not yield the desired results, so as a general rule of thumb, you should hire a probate lawyer. The only feasible exception to the rule is if the decedent had a well-set-up trust in place, in which case you can probably do without.
Frequently Asked Questions For a Probate Lawyer
How Long Do You Estimate My Case Will Take Before Settling the Matter?
Since every case is a unique story, there is no way to provide a definitive answer to this question. Depending on the complexity of the situation, it can take years before the court reaches a verdict. However, in most cases Liberty Law has observed in practice, such prolonged scenarios are an exception rather than the norm.
How Much Do You Charge?
Expanding on the point above, any probate lawyer who’s worth their salt will provide some degree of transparency when it comes to fees and compensation. But to guarantee that sort of transparency, sometimes you have to ask that question directly. In Florida, your probate attorney of choice may either charge by the hour or take a flat rate from the total value of the asset. Once again, communication is key. Please contact us & we can set up a free consultation.
Do You Have Experience Handling Cases With Similar Characteristics to Mine?
If it’s a standard procedure, any probate lawyer will likely be up to the task. However, the more variables there are to consider, the more complex it gets. If this describes your situation or if the estate in question is of substantial value, you’ll want to rest assured that whoever represents you in court has the mileage necessary to make the best decisions. At Liberty Law, transparency is a competitive advantage and experience is our middle name. If you choose to work with us, we will assign the most suitable legal representative to defend your interests.
How Many Years Have You Been Practicing Estate Planning and Probate Law?
Although a new shining star may emerge in any field or industry, your safest bet is to go with a probate lawyer who has plenty of years of experience under his belt. The more, the better! At Liberty Law, our firm has been in practice since 2008 and we have vast combined years of experience among our team of attorneys.
What Documents Do You Require Me to Present?
Before the legal proceedings can take place, your probate lawyer of choice will ask you to present certain documents. Typically, this includes: 1. The death certificate of a loved one. 2. Copies of property deeds. 3. Names and addresses of the beneficiaries. 4. The decedent’s last will and testament (preferably the original). 5. Copies of the decedent’s bills. 6. The decedent’s financial records.
At Liberty Law, we work with the top experts on probate law and we would be delighted to take you on as a client so you can put our knowledge and skills to good use. We invite you to get in touch using any of the contact methods we have available and let’s discuss your case in a free consultation!