What Are Probate Lawyers
Probate lawyers are attorneys who have specialized knowledge in all aspects of probate law. They will have experience working with wills, estates, trusts, and estate administration. Probate attorneys work in a detailed area of the law to help people create wills, plan their estates, create trusts, plan for the distribution of assets, and do other types of advanced planning. They also represent executors and estates, making sure wills are probated correctly and helping to distribute assets after someone dies. New Jersey Estate Administration and Probate attorneys understand commonly used estate planning techniques and the implications of the entire probate process.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
Your probate lawyer begins the legal probate process by filing the will with the court, or, if there is no will, by asking the court to appoint the next of kin as the “administrator,” who is then charged with handling the estate according to that state’s laws including intestacy laws – that is, who is to inherit as a beneficiary in the absence of a will. If a will exists, the court must evaluate the will and determine if it was properly signed by the testator and witnessed according to state law. On occasion, depending again on state law, it may be necessary to call witnesses during this process, and the people who witnessed the will may have to testify, and it may also be necessary to conduct a hearing about the mental capacity or mental abilities of the testator at the time the will was executed. The probate attorney handles all of this. Many cases are based on the assertion that the decedent did not have the mental capacity to modify or even execute the will.
In some situations, people may file to contest a will, claiming the will is invalid, or that it was not properly executed, or that it was the product of undue influence or coercion of the decedent. In these instances, probate litigation involving a trial may be necessary, and an experienced probate lawyer will handle all of these concerns.
During probate, the executor or administrator must account for all of the deceased’s assets and debts, and in some states, file a complete inventory with the court. The probate lawyer must also help the executor investigate, obtain and organize all of the bills of the estate, such as outstanding bills from before the person died as well as bills that become due after the death, including costs involved in maintaining a home during probate or appraisals to determine the value of some items. The probate attorney also advises the executor or administrator about tax issues – including the need to determine whether income tax returns, estate tax returns, and inheritance tax returns need to be filed.
Probate lawyers also guide executors and administrators through the probate administration. They provide those who are responsible for distributing the assets to the heirs with the knowledge needed to conclude the process and ensure that everyone gets what they are entitled to under the will.
In addition to wills, probate lawyers also handle the estates of people who die without wills. In these situations, estate administration involves distributing assets according to state intestacy laws. Probate attorneys also create and administer living trusts, special legal entities set up to manage assets during life and then distribute them after death, outside the reach of the probate court.
Inheritance Dispute Resolution
While an estate planning process tries to avoid litigation, it is not certain that beneficiaries will avoid engaging in a dispute. Sources of friction include unexpected beneficiaries or heirs, or if someone was left out of a will. Other cases arise when the validity of a will is questioned. These “will contests” can be highly emotional and if not quickly resolved, result in delayed asset distribution. Our estate planning experts have experience in resolving these types of issues.
Why Should You Hire a New Jersey Probate Lawyer?
Estate administration and the probate process is a complex one that a specialized court oversees that focuses almost entirely on probate cases. It also can include very significant tax issues that can arise even in relatively modest probate cases. If your loved one dies with any significant assets, you need to hire a probate attorney to make sure everything is handled correctly. In any case involving a trust, substantial assets, a surviving spouse who is not a US citizen, or questions about the validity of a will, it is essential to have a knowledgeable probate attorney. Probate attorneys are familiar with the intricacies of state laws. They can smoothly move a will through probate, solving any problems that could come up. Probate attorneys and law firm staff are also knowledgeable about estate tax laws and ensure that required taxes are paid. The executor or administrator does not become personally liable for those obligations and that the estate does not overpay.
What are Probate Fees and Costs?
The state establishes probate court fees for filing probate cases – some states have significant fees, others less so. Probate lawyers also charge fees for their services. The size of the legal fees corresponds to the size and complexity of the case, such as instances where probate litigation is needed. In some states, probate lawyer fees must be approved by the court. There may also be estate administration fees for accountants, appraisals, and surety bonds during probate.
What Should You Ask When Hiring a Probate Lawyer?
The most important question to ask is about the lawyer’s experience resolving estate administration issues and how they approach probate litigation and the entire probate process. How many probate cases have they handled, or what clients have they helped in the past year? How many estates of this size has he or she dealt with in the last year? Did they help solve situations similar to your yours? You will also want to ask about the fees, the expected completion time for the case, how often you should expect to hear from the attorney, and what if anything, you will need to do for the case to move forward. Be sure to choose a NJ probate attorney you feel comfortable with and whom you trust.
When you need representation from experienced estate administration lawyers and probate lawyers in New Jersey, or are faced with potential New Jersey probate litigation case, give us a call at 201-488-4644 or contact us using the form below.
Our team of New Jersey probate lawyers will hit the ground running as soon as our law firm gets your call. We can also help you understand if you have the legal standing to contest a will and what the steps are to resolve your case.
We support estate administration and the probate process across New Jersey including:
– Bergen County
– Essex County
– Hudson County
– Hunterdon County
– Mercer County
– Middlesex County
– Monmouth County
– Morris County
– Passaic County
– Somerset County
– Sussex County
– Union County
– Warren County
Learn More About the Law, Probate and Protecting An Estate During the Estate Planning Process