What does a probate attorney do?

What does a probate attorney do?

March 30, 2023

The probate process from start to finish can be complex. You’re not alone and the attorney will help guide you through this often-overwhelming process after a loved one has passed away. 

Probate lawyers in Florida aim to help you with probate administration from start to finish. This involves the legal division and distribution of assets after someone has passed away, identifying the assets of the deceased person (aka “the decedent”), settling the decedent’s debts when appropriate, paying taxes when applicable, and ultimately distributing the decedent’s probate assets to the heirs. Handling the decedent’s creditors and contested matters are a couple of the complications that the probate attorney will advise and guide the client. You want your will to be properly validated and executed according to what you want – a probate lawyer can help fulfill your wishes. This is more of estate planning terms and not probate – but what about – “The attorney will help analyze the decedent’s Last Will & Testament and how it affects the probate process and the decedent’s assets.” The attorney will also make sure that the probate process is administered quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Here is a probate checklist of things that Leggett Law Offices will assist and guide you through and what the probate attorney does: 

  • Identification of assets – Before opening the probate case, the attorney will help identify the proper probate estate assets. This may include a life insurance policy payable to the estate.
  • Identification of Non-Probate Assets - The attorney will help identify the non-probate estate assets. 

  • Identification of Heirs or Beneficiaries - The attorney will help identify the proper heirs or beneficiaries whether there is a Last Will & Testament involved or not.
  • Draft the Proper Probate Documents for Client’s Review – The attorney understands what documents need to be filed and when they should be filed.
  • Guide the Client – Inform and instruct the client what needs to happen through the probate process including handling creditor claims.
  • Bill and Debt Payments – Ensure that the estate is properly handling payments to creditors when settling the creditor claims and objecting to claims when proper. 

  • Distribution of assets – When the time is appropriate, the attorney will guide the client through distribution of the probate assets to the heirs.  
  • Other tasks – The probate attorney can assist with many other probate case requirements during the probate process. This often includes the decedent’s homestead property, vehicles, certain bank accounts and investment accounts.

Let’s break it down

Identification of assets

The decedent’s assets should all be accounted for and determined whether each is a probate asset or not. The lawyer can deal with the necessary steps to evaluate each asset. Probate assets typically include: 

  • Real estate, vehicles, bank accounts and other assets titled solely in the decedent’s name with no living designated beneficiary. 
  • Personal possessions, such as household furniture, collections, and other personal belongings.
  • Shifting through the assets to determine what needs to happen can be burdensome and tedious. Not all assets require the court probate process to transfer to the heirs. The probate lawyer will advise the client when to seek the advice of a tax professional regarding any potential tax issues. The lawyer will guide you through the necessary steps regarding appraisals of certain assets when necessary.

Distribution of assets

There will be a point or points in the probate process when assets need to be distributed to the heirs. The lawyer will advise how to proceed to properly distribute the assets according to the decedent’s Last Will & Testament or according to Florida’s “intestate succession” statutes. In Florida, a Will must be deposited with the proper county clerk of courts and validated or “admitted to probate” by the Circuit court Judge handling the case. Florida’s statutes provides that the Will should be deposited with the court within ten days after the person passes away.

The Last Will & Testament will typically nominate who is responsible for handling the decedent’s probate estate affairs. This person is called the personal representative or executor. The lawyer will help guide you through the process to request the court to admit or validate the Will and appoint the personal representative when necessary. 

This Will validation process is not always smooth because interested parties will be notified and someone may try to contest the Will. The process of admitting the Will to probate and ultimately distributing the assets to the heirs or beneficiaries can sometimes be challenging.  The attorney can guide the client through the steps to admit the Last Will & Testament and advise the personal representative how to proceed.  

Life Insurance Policy 

The life insurance death benefit proceeds are payable on the policy holder’s death. If the listed designated beneficiary is alive, then the proceeds should be directly distributed to that person or persons “outside” of the probate process and avoid the need to pass through the probate administration. If the designated beneficiary on the life insurance policy is deceased, then the policy proceeds may need to pass through the probate process in order to get it to the heir(s).  

Bill and Debt Payments

Certain debts and bills need to be paid after someone passes away. The probate lawyer will advise the client how to properly handle these tasks. Often, there may be no available non-exempt assets to pay certain debts of the decedent.

A probate lawyer can explain to you what to expect regarding any pre-existing debts the decedent may have. Funeral expenses may also be included as a potential reimbursement to the person who paid. The probate lawyer may also use estate assets when appropriate to hire any accountants or other professionals necessary to settle any estate disputes. 

Find An Experienced Probate Lawyer Without Breaking The Bank

The probate process can be stressful. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, you can have a smoother probate planning process. From Will planning to asset distribution, a lawyer can help you settle certain issues before they arise in the future. 

Probate fees and costs can depend on various factors including: the size of your estate, how complicated the probate administration may become, and if someone is contesting the administration or if all heirs agree.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

Call Leggett Law Offices today to schedule Probate phone consultation.

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