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What is a Probate Attorney

what is a probate attorney

A probate attorney helps administrators and executors close-out and settle estates. A probate attorney’s knowledge of the court system allows them to close and settle matters in the probate court without unneeded expenses and delays. Here are some of the things that a probate attorney does:

  • Helps the executor or administrator fill out the petition for probate. The petition for probate is the primary document that commences the probate process. The petition includes all of the information about the person who died, the information about the person who would like to become the administrator or executor, information about the people who benefit from the will and the information about the closest living relatives of the person who died (the closest living relatives of the person who died are often the beneficiaries of their will, but not always.)
  • Obtains all the supporting documents. The petition for probate is not the only document that the probate attorney submits to the court. The petition also needs supporting documents. Those documents include the death certificate, copy of a funeral bill and various affidavits proving the relationship to the person who died. The documents may also include death and birth certificates of the various people involved, notices to tax authorities, affidavits of heirship, Citations, Notices of Probate, and various other documents.
  • Submits the petition and the supporting documents to the probate court. Your probate attorney will submit all of the documents that are needed to the probate court and then follows up with the probate court to make sure that the documents are sufficient and no more documents are required, and that the court accepts the documents that are submitted.
  • Attends court hearings. There can be one or more court hearings on a probate case, and the probate attorney attends all of them, to represent his client before the court.
  • Follows through to make sure that your goal is accomplished. Whether you are the person who wishes to be appointed the executor or administrator of the estate, or you are trying to prevent someone from being appointed, or you are just trying to monitor what is happening in the estate of which you are a beneficiary, what is a probate attorney if not someone who is there to represent your best interest and make sure that your goals are met.
  • Can help you locate assets. Some estates have easy to locate assets, and some assets are harder to find. But what is a probate attorney who cannot help you locate assets? Although probate attorneys sometimes need assistance from private investigators, there are still ways for a probate attorney to help their client find assets. This is done by advising clients for the best strategies to locate assets, such as advising the client where to look. A powerful tool that we have to locate assets is subpoenas to the financial institutions that may hold the assets. To locate which institutions make the most sense to look, we ask the client where the person who died liked to bank, look at the map of the area and locate the financial institutions that are close to the address where the person lived, and we subpoena the most common financial institutions such as Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Fidelity, U.S. Bank, Capital One, Bank of America, PNC Bank and TD Bank.
  • Can help you value assets. Some assets have straightforward value, and some are hard to valuate. What is a probate attorney if not someone who can argue your preferred value to the beneficiaries, IRS and the court.
  • Will deal with disagreements. In the course of a probate proceeding, agreements can arise. The most common disputes are a will contest or a contested accounting. A will contest involves someone challenging a validity of the will, usually saying that the person who made the will did not have the mental capacity or was unduly influenced to benefit a particular person. A contested accounting involves a beneficiary claiming that an executor is stealing from the estate or mismanaging it. What is a probate attorney if not someone who can help you prevail in those disagreements or come to a successful compromise?
  • Will draft and submit an estate accounting and defend the estate accounting before the court.
  • And finally, what is a probate attorney if not someone who can conduct a trial before the judge or the jury, making sure that you have the best possible chance of prevailing. If your estate has disagreements, seek the services of a probate attorney with a proven track record of results. This is crucial for your best chance of getting the inheritance that you are entitled to.

What is a probate attorney?

A probate attorney is someone who can help you accomplish the following:

  • have the court appoint you as the personal representative (executor or administrator)
  • marshal the assets of the estate
  • pay the claims
  • resolve any disagreements and
  • distribute the assets to the right heirs and in the right amount

Whether you are an executor, administrator, beneficiary or creditor of an estate, winding up an estate involves many aspects. What is a probate attorney if not someone who understands the probate timelines and can facilitate the process for you by handling the following aspects of the probate of your estate:

  • Determination of whether there is a will
  • Reading of the will (not a requirement, but sometimes done)
  • Obtaining the death certificate
  • Filing the probate petition in the Surrogate’s court
  • Obtaining the Letters Testamentary
  • Compiling an inventory of the estate assets, list of creditors and obtaining personal and real property appraisals
  • Assisting with the selling of assets, payment to creditors and distribution of assets to beneficiaries
  • Helping resolve disputes amongst heirs or beneficiaries that may arise
  • Winding up and closing of the estate

Since every estate involves different matters and unexpected situations may arise that family members are not prepared to deal with at such a delicate and emotional time of their lives, having an experienced probate attorney handle your estate will be more efficient, less stressful and save you time and money, especially on estates where there are substantial assets involved requiring the sale of real estate in one or more states, stocks, bonds, and other personal property, distributions to charities and beneficiaries, including children from previous marriages and current and ex-spouses.

The Probate Process

The probate process has many components. If you are the person in charge of the estate and are going to be probating a will here’s roughly what the process would look like:

  • you get appointed by the court to be in charge of the estate
  • locate estate property
  • pay the decedent’s debts and taxes
  • resolve any disagreements
  • and finally, distribute the remainder of the property to the heirs

Those probate process steps can vary and they can overlap. To be successful, you’d have to complete each one of those steps carefully. You would greatly benefit from having a probate attorney represent your throughout the process.

The probate process can be challenging to navigate. It is filled with technicalities, deadlines, traps for the unwary and red tape. What is a probate attorney if not a person who can help you navigate the process, whether someone died without a will or you are probating a will.

Since estate matters are complex and most people do not understand them and they are not trained to resolve probate issues on their own, the services of an experienced probate attorney is usually required. An attorney who is experienced in handling probate matters, is knowledgeable about state and federal tax and inheritance laws will be able to assist you with resolving your probate and estate matters in a relatively timely and efficient manner.

If you wish to hire a probate attorney, you can call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233 or (718) 509-9774 and make an appointment to discuss your probate proceeding.