Many people are named as executors to ensure that the last wishes of a deceased individual are carried out to his or her wishes. However, there can be many decisions that have to be made in the course of carrying out this duty. Working with an experienced probate attorney is often the best option when the estate is complex or when dealing with difficult family members that are unhappy with the terms of the will.
Deciding whether to consult with a probate attorney or to proceed without legal assistance is really an individual choice. By considering the possible risks of the process and the size of the estate, it will be clear if the assistance of a specialized attorney is required.
What Needs to Go Through Probate?
Depending on how titles to property or assets were structured, it may be possible to transfer ownership without the need to go through probate court. In most cases, property or assets in joint name or with survivorship will not need to go through probate to transfer ownership.
Living trusts are also excluded from the need for probate. Additionally, when specific assets have a named beneficiary such as a life insurance policy, it will not need to go through probate.
You may also be able to go through what is known as summary probate. This is a simplified probate procedure for smaller estates that is very easy and can be completed without an attorney for most estates.
A very important consideration to involving a probate attorney is how the family and the heirs are responding to the will. When family members are arguing or fighting, getting an attorney involved very quickly can often limit the damage and stress that this type of conflict can cause.
When a business is part of the estate or if the estate has more debt than assets, working with an attorney will often be an important consideration. This will help avoid any legal errors by the executor that can create ongoing legal concerns or even the risk of a lawsuit.