A Probate Attorney is an Estate Executor’s Best Friend

When someone entrusts you with the disposition of an estate, chances are that you will need legal help to get through the process. In some cases, you may choose to turn the entire job over to an experienced probate attorney, or you may only need some legal advice. No matter your level of expertise in such matters, retaining legal counsel helps reduce your burden as executor and prevents costly mistakes.

The Steps of Probate

Probate is the legal vetting process for a decedent’s will as well as the distribution of the assets. As executor, you must ensure that the estate pays its outstanding debts, including those involved in its administration, and that any federal and state taxes are taken care of before honoring bequests.

With the exception of the states that have adopted a Uniform Probate Code, each jurisdiction has specific rules and requirements, so a local probate attorney is the best resource for navigating your particular court. In general, though, the basic legal steps of probate include:

  1. Petitioning the court to confirm your official position as executor
    2. Publishing a notice of probate
    3. Mailing notices of probate to the estate’s creditors
    4. Notifying beneficiaries and heirs
    5. Filing proof with the court that you sent these notices
    6. Posting bond, if required, to insure the estate against losses you might cause
    7. Proving the will is valid, if necessary
    8. Mailing notice of the final hearing to heirs
    9. Obtaining legal authorization to distribute assets
    10. Getting receipts for each distribution
    11. Asking the judge to close probate
Some of your administrative duties as executor of the estate, consist of:

• Obtaining an EIN for the estate
• Opening a bank account for the estate
• Taking inventory of the estate
• Getting assets appraised

Potential Complications

Delays and problems are not uncommon in probate. For example, especially valuable estates may owe state and federal income tax. Although the personal exemption for federal estate tax is relatively high — more than $5 million in 2015 – some estates exceed that amount and are taxable. Additionally, some states also levy estate tax. Closing your probate may depend on paying the tax first.

Other issues that delay probate include legal challenges by family members. These may involve infighting over the assets. Sometimes, heirs bring suit against an executor they believe is mismanaging the estate. Any legal wrangling is bound to cause problems and delay probate.

Administering an estate can become a burdensome duty. Our probate attorneys lighten the load with expert advice and representation. Get the help you need by contacting us today.