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Probate is defined as a legal process through which a person’s estate is settled after death. It includes validating the will, inventorying the deceased’s property and appraising it, paying debts and taxes, and finally making sure the remaining property in the estate is distributed as designated in the will. In situations where there is no will, the estate will ultimately be distributed according to dictates of state law.
Probate is required in Colorado in certain circumstances.
A probate lawyer is an asset when aspects of a deceased person’s estate distribution require help with estate administration. We discuss some of the factors that should influence your decision to hire a probate lawyer to help in handling estate distribution below.
No state requires you to hire a lawyer to help you navigate the probate process. However, you should know that if no lawyer is involved it is easy to make mistakes and miss deadlines, which can result in increased costs that often are the responsibility of the administrator. At the least, such difficulties can quickly earn the enmity of beneficiaries who have had their inheritance held up through your negligence or errors.
Do you need the help of a probate lawyer to help handle a deceased person’s estate?
The following questions can help you decide.
1. Has the deceased undertaken extensive estate planning?
If there is a living trust or other probate-avoiding strategy in place, the less likely you will need legal representation. (You will need to work with your lawyer if you wish to establish such a plan for your own estate, however.)
2. Do the heirs get along well?
Fighting among heirs or the threat of a challenge to the will make it imperative that you consult with an attorney. In such a situation, the sooner you contact an attorney in the process the better.
3. Does the estate qualify as a “small estate?”
Most states have streamlined procedures for handling the probate for small estates. These are typically handled entirely out of court.
4. Does the estate contain enough money to cover all debts?
If the estate does not include enough money to pay such things as costs of a final illness, funeral expenses, estate taxes, and other bills with some left over, you will need help to determine who gets paid first – there is a definite order that must be followed.
5.Is the personal representative in state or out of state?
A transactional probate lawyer is the type of probate lawyer most people hire, and such a lawyer is essential when there is no will (intestate estate). The transactional probate lawyer will open your probate case, submit the will through the court system, and assist the designated executor of the estate.
You will need a probate litigator in situations where there is disharmony among the heirs. These lawyers specialize in estate mediation. Such an attorney can be hired to assist the executor or to manage the estate on behalf of the deceased. A probate litigator is essential when the will is contested or when there is a disagreement about the distribution of assets.
When a will is contested the plaintiff pays all legal fees and court costs unless he or she is victorious in which case the estate pays these costs. Contesting a will not only slows the process of distribution, but also can eat into the value of the estate, often necessitating the sale of assets to pay expenses.
Apart from situations when the will is challenged, the estate pays for the costs of probate and handles such expenses as mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance fees, etc. through the process. If the estate is unable to pay for these costs, the court can order the sale of the property to cover expenses.
A good transactional probate lawyer will help assure documents are well organized and submitted to court on time. He or she can help with the designation of an administrator and can be your representative with the court.
The cost of hiring an attorney to help you through the probate process can depend on a number of factors including your state laws, the value of the estate, the presence of a will, type of property to be inherited, and the amount if discord in the family.
Contact an Experienced Denver Probate Attorney
If you need to establish an estate plan or get help with a probate case, do not hesitate to call the knowledgeable probate attorneys at Robinson & Henry in Castle Rock, Colorado. We provide expert legal advice and help to families and individuals in Castle Rock, Douglas County, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, and throughout the south metro Denver area. Call 303-688-0944 for a no-cost consultation today.