Do I Need a Probate Lawyer?

When a loved one passes, a variety of issues typically arise. One concern may be whether or not you need to retain the services of a Peoria IL probate lawyer. The answer depends on several factors that should be considered.

Executor of an Estate

An executor of an estate is a person named in a last will and testament to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out. The executor generally is required to ensure that valid debts of the estate are paid and that any taxes due and owing are satisfied. They are also expected to distribute the assets of the estate as directed in the last will and testament.

If you have been named the executor of an estate, your immediate response may be to retain legal counsel. In many cases, this is a wise course when you have been appointed to oversee and address the affairs of a loved one’s estate.

Unless the estate qualifies for a simplified probate process, or can bypass the formal probate process altogether, the executor will need to become involved with the probate court. The reality is that probate court procedures, and their associated laws, are some of the most complex in the U.S. legal system. Thus, if the estate will be involved in probate court proceedings, an executor should consider getting legal assistance from a probate attorney.

Disputes Regarding an Estate

In a surprising number of cases, heirs or legatees of an estate can end up at odds with one another. If family members and others associated with the estate are in dispute, the involvement of a probate lawyer may be the best solution. There are a number of different ways in which a probate attorney can be of invaluable assistance in this type of situation:

  • An objective and non-emotional attorney can help negotiate or intervene between family members.
  • Someone with a vested interest in the estate who hires a probate lawyer has a better chance of protecting their rights than someone who does not have a legal representative

Tax Issues

Occasionally an estate may face complicated tax issues. In the grand scheme of things, one of the goals in settling an estate is minimizing the amount of money paid out in estate and inheritance taxes.

As an aside, tax issues can best be addressed in a proactive manner. A person with more substantial assets is wise to engage in comprehensive and advanced estate planning. This can help minimize tax consequences for their heirs after passing.

Retaining a probate attorney can be a crucial step to ensure that tax issues are properly addressed. The costs associated with hiring an attorney may be offset by what is saved in estate or inheritance taxes.

Retain a Probate Lawyer

No matter the specific circumstances, the first step in retaining a probate attorney is scheduling what is called an initial consultation. Through an initial consultation between an attorney and the prospective client, a probate lawyer has the chance to evaluate any potential issues with an estate. In addition, the individual seeking legal representation can ask questions of an experienced probate attorney. As a general rule, a probate attorney does not charge a fee for an initial consultation with a prospective client.

Smith and WeerThanks to our friend and contributors from Smith & Weer, P.C. for their insight into probate law.