After a loved one has passed away, the last thing a family wants to do is wade through complex financial and legal matters. However, that is precisely what happens for many families at the worst possible moment.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process of legally administering an estate after an individual’s death and handling the distribution of their assets to heirs and beneficiaries. For many, there is a valid will that will set out instructions for this. But often, an individual dies without the benefit of a will or trust, and the estate must be administered through the probate courts. Even if there is a valid will, disputes may arise between heirs and family members. This is when it is essential to have the assistance of a skilled probate lawyer.
What is a Probate Lawyer?
A probate lawyer, or estate attorney, is an attorney who is state-licensed and experienced in estate law. When a loved one dies, a probate lawyer is specifically tasked with assisting executors, family members, and other heirs and beneficiaries of an estate. But there are many other things that a probate lawyer will do.
During the probate process, a lawyer will help with various responsibilities, including
- Identifying the assets of the estate
- Preparing and filing documentation for the court
- Determining whether any taxes are due to the state or federal government and resolving any tax issues
- Collecting the proceeds from life insurance policies
- Getting a valuation and appraisal of assets and real property
- Assisting in the payment of bills and debts
- Assisting with any creditor claims
- Assisting in inheritance disputes
- Transferring assets to heirs and beneficiaries
- Contesting a will or trust
- Handling surcharge actions against a trustee
- Setting up conservatorships and guardianships
- Probate and tax appeals
- Acting as executor or trustee
and other matters.
A probate lawyer will help with various issues and responsibilities during the probate process and can make an overwhelming and time-consuming process more manageable. Your lawyer will also be able to offer crucial advice regarding important estate matters and draft appropriate documents such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.
Is Having a Probate Lawyer Necessary?
Having the skill and guidance of a probate lawyer can save an estate a significant amount of money and speed up the probate process. But some estates are small and fairly uncomplicated. Although it is always good to have a professional’s guidance in probate matters, it’s not always necessary. This will depend on how large the estate is, if there is enough money in the estate to pay off creditors and debts, what type of assets are in the estate, and if family members get along reasonably well.
If you are dealing with the estate of a loved one or have questions about any probate matters, the skilled New Jersey probate lawyers at the Matus Law Group can help. Contact them or call them at (732) 281-0060 for a confidential consultation.