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What Is a Probate Attorney

If you have a loved one who has recently passed away, you may be wondering what to do with their belongings such as bank accounts or physical items such as a house or car. You may be wondering how to handle that person’s debts such as their mortgage or credit card bills. Furthermore, you may wonder how to administer their will – do the heirs get their inheritance or must the assets go toward paying off debts? What if the person didn’t have a will, what happens then? You may have always thought of an attorney as someone who tries a case in a courtroom. However, there are many types of attorneys. A probate attorney is a specific type of attorney that assists with settling the estate of someone who has passed away. Attorneys generally refer to that person as the decedent. You may never have been faced with the question of what to do with someone’s estate after they are gone, so probate attorneys are here to help.

A probate attorney is a type of licensed attorney who assists and represents clients who are acting as executors of wills or estates, personal representatives, or administrators during the probate process. The probate process involves distributing assets of a deceased person and paying their debts either by what that person’s will or what the state law requires. A probate attorney may handle tasks such as finding and inventorying the deceased’s assets, locating debtors and creditors, and generally settling the person’s estate. 

Probate attorneys are like estate planning attorneys. What is different is that an estate planning attorney writes wills and trusts whereas a probate attorney handles the distribution of the decedent’s property and represents the decedent, the administrator of the estate or the estate itself in probate court. A probate attorney may also act as the executor or administrator of the dead person’s will or estate. 

A probate lawyer has many roles. They can help locate property and accounts, or estranged relatives, for example. They can help find insurance beneficiaries. They can use the decedent’s assets to pay off his or her debt.  They can distribute assets from the estate to the heirs or beneficiaries. They can prepare and file papers with the court and much more. 

The probate process is complicated. If you are not familiar with the process of how to handle a decedent’s estate or with the law regarding a deceased person’s debts and assets, it is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer. A probate lawyer may charge you a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a percentage of the estate’s value. The price depends on the probate lawyer’s knowledge, specialty area and experience. 

For your first meeting, bring any questions you have for the probate attorney. Questions may include:

  • Do you specialize in probate law?
  • Have you handled a case like mine before?
  • Will the attorney be actively involved in my case?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What is the process like?

In short, the probate process can be complicated. Do not go at it alone. Call the experienced probate attorneys at Van Law Firm today to set up an appointment with an attorney.