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National Directory of Probate Attorneys & Lawyers


National Directory of Probate Attorneys & Lawyers

When a family member dies, you may find yourself left with a complex will to administer and estate to settle. Perhaps, the decedent left a property with tenants, or perhaps they had significant assets and debts. Maybe other beneficiaries disagree about their fair share. Whatever the situation, it is important that probate—the administration of the will and settlement of the estate—is done properly. Because there are many laws and procedures that you must follow, probate can be tricky. Fortunately, a reputable attorney can help you navigate your situation. But where do you find a reliable local probate attorney? To make things easier, HouseCashin offers a directory of recommended probate lawyers and law offices in your location. With this list, you can quickly get the trusted legal services you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Probate attorneys, or solicitors, are licensed lawyers who specialize in the legal process of transferring property and assets from a decedent’s estate to beneficiaries. The title can be shortened to “probate atty” and, depending on where you live, one might also be called a lawyer for estate settlement, family probate lawyer, or estate lawyer.

Probate lawyers handle all proceedings relating to a deceased person’s estate administration. The specific responsibilities of an estate administration attorney will depend on factors like the value of the estate, whether the assets are in a trust, and whether the decedent wrote a will. In all cases, however, the attorney plays a crucial role both inside and outside of court. The attorney will first file a probate petition to appoint a personal representative. This officially begins the probate of will, or court oversight of the distribution of the estate. Then, the attorney will advise the executor and beneficiary on proceedings for the distribution. In this process, the attorney handles certain administrative tasks, like attending to creditors’ claims and giving appropriate notice of the probate to parties entitled to receive it. During this time, they work closely with the personal representative to ensure that he or she is completing necessary tasks. Legal assistance is especially helpful with more complex matters, like real estate probate or inheritance disputes. The attorney will also handle any litigation that arises. Litigation is especially common when a decedent leaves no will, as beneficiaries will sue for what they think they are entitled to. Even if the decedent did write a will—as in most cases, litigation can still quickly arise, like in cases of contested wills or probate disputes. There, the attorney will petition or defend as necessary. Once administrative tasks are completed, the attorney files a petition for final distribution. This petition summarizes the work completed and asks the court to authorize the personal representative to distribute the estate according to the will.

The price of a probate attorney’s help will depend on their experience, where you live, and the complexity of the matter. Typically, probate and estate attorneys charge rates that range between $150 and $300 per hour. Additionally, you can expect to pay the cost of any legal fees accrued, such as filings with the court. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for the entire proceeding. If you choose an attorney who charges a flat fee, make sure you understand exactly what is and is not included. Finally, as discussed more below, some states allow probate lawyers to charge a percentage of the gross value of the estate.

You should meet with a few probate attorneys before choosing one to assist you with this important proceeding. Many offer free consultations. In these, you should ask general questions about experience to ensure they are probate specialists. For example, you will want to know the typical size of estates handled and whether they prepare final tax returns. You should also ask questions specific to your case, especially if real estate is involved. Even if you don’t anticipate any disputes or issues, ask the attorney if they see anything that could merit special attention. An attorney should see any big issues quickly, and should also be able to give you a rough estimate on the time and cost of probate. Finally, you should ask the attorney about their general practices. Specifically, you should learn how much they use paralegals and how they communicate with clients.

A simple internet search will probably turn up a long list of probate attorneys in your area. Even if you have the advice of friends or family, it can be hard to know which ones are real law experts. Because probate can be contentions and involves distribution of significant assets—especially when real estate is involved—it’s important to choose a good attorney. To make things easier, HouseCashin has assembled a directory of top-rated probate attorneys and estate settlement law firms in your area. By meeting with attorneys on this list, you can quickly narrow your search to only the best local probate law experts.

Some probate attorneys will work on a contingency basis, meaning they are paid a percentage of your award instead of an hourly rate or set fee. The availability and advisability of a contingency basis depends on the size, complexity, and risk level of the estate and distribution. For example, some probate attorneys will only offer contingency for large estates and may charge a larger percentage if the will is contested. Other attorneys may offer it to all clients, but that does not mean it is the right choice for you. For instance, if the attorney charges 20% of gross value, and the estate contains a $500,000 house with $250,000 due on a mortgage, you would still pay on the outstanding balance.

While you can do probate without an attorney, doing so is not advisable if there is real estate or other substantial assets involved. Probate is complex and involves high financial stakes. If you make a mistake when filling out or filing a form, you could cause loss to yourself or a beneficiary. You may even be legally liable for this mistake. Even if you think that applying for probate without a solicitor, or attorney, is the best choice, you may want to consult with a lawyer first. Some will agree to only look over the final petition for distribution before you file it with the court. This option could reduce the risk of costly mistakes while saving you legal fees.

If you have the legal authority, you can sell a property under probate. Commonly, this is done when the decedent did not appoint an heir to the property or when the estate does not contain enough cash to pay its debts. In either scenario, you must follow certain legal procedures to sell a property under probate. First, you must get the property appraised and file a petition to sell real estate with the court. Once approved, you can list the property. When you accept an offer, you must tell the buyer that it is conditional on court confirmation and arrange for a 10% deposit to be paid on the court hearing date. Then, you will attend the court hearing, where a member of the public might offer a higher bid. Once you accept the highest bid, whether from the original or a new buyer, you can apply the deposit and continue with the closing process. Selling a house in probate can be daunting. Throughout this process, you need to make sure you abide by court procedure and specific state laws. A trusted estate or probate attorney can offer valuable professional assistance throughout the process.

You can buy a house in probate, but the process will be more complicated than a traditional sale. If you are not in a rush to close, and are willing to accept some risks, you might get a good deal by buying a home in probate. Houses in probate are often offered at a price point below market value. This is partly because it is harder to negotiate repairs and the representative is exempt from normal seller disclosures. The lower cost is also due to the complex process that comes with buying a house in probate. Once you put in an offer, the estate representative petitions court for a license to sell. Heirs are notified and given the opportunity to object, and if they do not object, a court appointment is set. Notice of the offer is given to the public, who can then attend the court appointment and submit bids. If there are no competing bids, or if you outbid others, you give the property administrator a cashier’s check for at least 10% of the offer. The sale then proceeds more normally.

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