What are some circumstances that require hiring a probate lawyer?


Quick Answer

Although the executor of an estate can, in many cases, settle the deceased's affairs without legal assistance, a dispute between the inheritors or the sale of a business or other commercial property can become a complicated affair that requires professional help from a probate lawyer. Under these circumstances, or if there are taxation issues or insufficient funds to settle the deceased's obligations, Nolo, the legal advice and lawyer referral website, recommends consulting or retaining an experienced estate attorney should be consulted or retained. The degree of proactive estate planning set up by the deceased can be a significant factor in determining if an executor requires professional assistance.

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Full Answer

Some examples of circumstances in which an executor may be able to proceed without professional legal assistance are if the deceased set up probate-avoidance instruments such as a joint tenancy, tenancy in the entirety, living trusts or survivorship community property. Under these circumstances, assets can be passed on without any need of a probate process. In cases where a beneficiary was named by the deceased, such as in a life insurance policy or retirement account, the funds can bypass probate.

A lack of proper estate planning coupled with a dysfunctional family situation can be cause for an executor seeking professional assistance, as noted in an American Bar Association newsletter article. Some factors that can lead to problems are the deceased having hastily drawn up a deathbed will, the designation of one child to administer the trust of another, common-law relationships and children from a prior marriage or relationship.

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