Do I Need an Attorney for Probate?
Having an estate planning attorney manage the probate process can alleviate a great deal of stress for the family, says the recent article “Reasons to hire a lawyer for probate” from The Mercury.
For one thing, the attorney will know what your state requires in the way of executing the will. In some state’s there may be a need to pay a state inheritance tax. Fortunately for Louisiana residents, Louisiana no longer has a state inheritance tax nor a state estate transfer tax. But you do have to present to the court certain pleadings specific to Louisiana. Even if the surviving spouse is the only heir/legatee, and all assets are either jointly titled or are distributed through beneficiary designations, there are other details you may miss.
A surviving spouse will certainly appreciate not having to undertake a mountain of paperwork or electronic forms on their own, especially if there are no adult children living nearby to help. Which court pleading needs to be presented or which beneficiary form needs to be completed, and what will financial institutions need to change accounts to the proper ownership? It can be daunting, especially during mourning.
An estate planning attorney will also know how long the probate process will take. The surviving spouse may be the executor but may be unable to attend probate court.
If there are family disputes between heirs regarding distribution, an estate planning attorney could be a very important resource. There may need to be a settlement agreement created that conforms to the state’s law. If it is not handled properly, the agreement could be deemed invalid if challenged in court.
What if the family home is being sold? Sometimes executors working without an attorney do not realize the requirements from title insurance companies regarding the sale of a property where one of the parties has passed. Failing to make sure that these requirements are met, could delay the settlement of the estate and put the property sale in jeopardy.
If there are health or creditor issues, or disputes over property, an estate planning attorney is invaluable in protecting the surviving spouse and/or executor. In many cases, the estate is left with substantial medical bills, Medicaid claims or related costs. Executors may not know their rights, or how to defend the estate. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney will.
BOOK A CALL with me, Ted Vicknair, Board Certified Estate Planning and Administration Specialist, Board Certified Tax Law Specialist, and CPA to learn more about estate planning, incapacity planning, and asset protection.
If you liked this article, “Do I Need an Attorney for Probate?” read these additional articles: What Happens to Parents’ Debts When They Die? and Write a Letter of Instruction for Loved Ones and Can I Avoid Paying Taxes on Social Security? and What Can a Trust Do for Me and My Family?
Reference: The Mercury (Feb. 8, 2022) “Reasons to hire a lawyer for probate”