Although it isn’t typically required by law to hire an attorney to help with probate, in some cases this can be beneficial and make the whole process go a little bit more smoothly. Understanding which situations are which involves taking a few things into consideration.
Size of Estate
Small estates that won’t owe either federal or state estate taxes may be simple enough to deal with without hiring a Probate Attorney. If an estate tax return is necessary, it’s a bit complicated and may be best handled with the help of an experienced Probate Attorney. Estates with values of less than one million dollars may not be taxed by either federal or state governments, but it’s important to check because laws vary by state.
Amount of Debt
Another situation in which a Probate Attorney may be necessary is when an estate doesn’t have enough money to cover any debts that are owed. There are rules over which creditors should be paid first.
Some people do a large amount of planning before they pass away to make it so probate may not even be necessary. If the deceased person did a lot of probate-avoidance planning, it may be possible to pass all the assets on to the beneficiaries without even going through the probate process. This includes joint assets, tenancy by the entirety, survivorship community property and assets in living trusts as well as assets for which a beneficiary was named.
Type of Assets
If there are some less common types of assets included in the estate, it may be best to hire an attorney to help with probate. This includes things like commercial real estate or businesses. It may be necessary to have these assets appraised and sold, and at the very least, arrangements have to be made to deal with the running of these businesses.
Regardless of how complex the estate situation is, some people may just be more comfortable having the assistance of an attorney to help them get through the process. It isn’t something that many people are familiar with, and nobody wants to make a potentially costly mistake or get into any legal difficulties while trying to wind up an estate. This may be especially true if not everyone in the family is getting along and someone threatens to contest the will.