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When Do You Need a Probate Attorney?

How Complicated is Probate?

The probate process governs the settlement of a deceased person’s estate. It ensures property distribution to rightful heirs and payment of outstanding debts to legitimate creditors. Depending on an estate's contents or size, this process can become complex and confusing. Certain circumstances may call for expert legal help as you navigate the details of a loved one’s estate.

Complex Assets and Debts

Many people’s estates only contain houses, vehicles, financial accounts, and household possessions. With commercial property, businesses, or special assets involved, things can get a little tricky. These assets may call for special handling during the probate process. This is especially true if multiple parties jointly own the same asset. For instance, a business partner could die with two other partners having ownership stakes.

Too Many Outstanding Debts

One goal of estate planning is to leave more assets than debts. But when liabilities outweigh remaining assets, this can create problems. With not enough money to pay every creditor, it’s important to determine who gets paid and who doesn’t. Income taxes, final expenses, and funeral costs usually get paid first. Your state’s laws govern which debts have greater priority.

Disputes by Estate Beneficiaries

Potential beneficiaries could contest a will for any number of reasons. They may claim that it doesn’t meet state requirements. They could argue that the deceased lacked mental capacity or was unduly influenced. Finally, they could assert that the will's creation occurred through fraudulent means. These can create a legal minefield, so the expertise of a probate attorney who is experienced with handling estate disputes can be helpful.

Settling Your Loved One’s Estate

Sorting out a family member’s estate can feel frustrating and overwhelming, especially if key issues crop up suddenly. Thankfully, not every estate is arduous or time-consuming to settle. Your state’s laws governing wills, estates, and inheritances can be rather detailed. Navigating such details can be challenging, so having a knowledgeable professional can help you make sense of it all.