It’s a scary experience to hire a probate lawyer. Apart from being new to this experience, you also don’t know how to differentiate between a good and a bad probate lawyer.
But, with some research, this shouldn’t be a problem at all.
However, there’s one challenge that comes with all this – what happens next when you find an attorney who can handle your probate case? What you will realize is that dealing with a probate attorney is a completely different experience, and this shows the importance of hiring a good attorney.
To make your probate process successful, it requires both your effort, as well as the attorney’s.
Therefore, you need to ask your probate attorney the following questions before hiring them.
What other legal areas do you focus on?
Some lawyers primarily focus on immigration law, others are experts in criminal law, while others concentrate on real estate. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you ask your probate attorney which areas of law the majorly focus on. Also, you can go ahead to check if their website has such information.
You should be careful when hiring an attorney who doesn’t focus on probate since they might fail to represent you well when dealing with estate matters. Moreover, hiring such an attorney risks delays when it comes to settling your case.
Have you ever handled cases similar to this one?
First, you should understand that every probate process is different. However, it doesn’t do any harm to ask your attorney if they have handled cases similar to yours before. For example, does your case have complex stipulations and arrangements stated in the will? Has the attorney handled such cases before? Always make sure that you choose a probate lawyer who’s experienced with cases similar to yours.
Are there any possible complications?
It’s hard to predict the outcome of a probate process. Normally, any probate process is pretty straightforward. However, unforeseen issues can arise, like challenges in finding a legal heir. Family members can challenge the legitimacy of the will. Any experienced probate lawyer
should be able to highlight some of the possible challenges that might arise from your case. Moreover, they should assist you in solving any of these issues in case they come up during the probate process.
How easily can I reach you or one of your associates?
As a client, you should be able to reach your lawyer, their associate, or staff if you want to get some important updates or discuss key developments in your case. It’s important to note that all legal offices are not the same. So, the question is, will your call go to an answering machine or someone who is well conversant with your case.
Moreover, you should seek to know the different communication channels available, as well as the attorney’s response time. Ask the attorney whether they will keep you updated regularly on the progress of your case. Communication is a key factor to consider when hiring a probate attorney. Lastly, you should make sure that you enquire how the lawyer, together with their staff, will handle your calls whenever you reach out to the office.
What are your charges?
Ask your attorney to inform you about their charges. Moreover, ask them the amount you should expect to pay for the attorney’s services. Generally, an attorney can charge you on an hourly basis or set a flat rate. Therefore make sure that you see their payment structure.
Besides, you should ask the attorney whether there are any other additional costs. At times, some attorneys will charge you when you contact them via phone, or when their staff spends time speaking with you. If the lawyer charges a fixed rate, seek to know how much they will charge you if your situation becomes more complicated than you expected. If possible, make sure that you get an estimate of the entire cost.
Are there assets exempted from probate?
Some assets are not covered by probate. Probate lawyer from Orlando shares that if for instance, the deceased party was legally married, and almost all the assets were jointly owned, then probate isn’t necessary for those assets. This also applies to some who did the due diligence to avoid probate before their death.
If you are in such a situation, probate might not be necessary. However, you will need to consult your lawyer for the necessary advice. The following are the assets that are not subject to probate:
- A property held in a living trust
- Pension plan distributions
- Proceeds for life insurance (except when “the estate” is a listed beneficiary)
- Retirement accounts, with a named beneficiary
- US savings bonds that are listed as “owed upon death”
- Household items and other goods that directly go to the family members who were living with the deceased in the same household when they died. (Please note that not all states have a provision for this). In certain states, this applies to vehicles too. If that’s the case, vehicles can be transferred to the immediate family members—meaning they are not subject to probate.
How long do you expect the probate process to last?
This is one of the common questions that probate attorneys come across. Generally, a probate process has a lot of misunderstanding and confusion. As a result, some people fear that the process will drag on for years—which rarely happens.
However, this doesn’t rule out the importance of having an estimated time frame for the probate process. This should assist you to plan and also budget for the entire process. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask your attorney this question. But, you also need to keep in mind that some unexpected delays can crop up during estate probate work.
Remember, competence, communication, and helpfulness are key to a successful probate process. At the end of the day, you will need to hire a competent attorney. This should be someone experienced in handling probate cases. The attorney that you hire should deal with any unusual issue effectively and with the required efficiency. By nature, probate is not complicated—what makes it hard is the routine paperwork.
In addition to experience, you should also make sure that you are comfortable with your probate attorney. Besides, you will also need an attorney who can communicate clearly. Most attorneys have the tendency of taking their clients in circles, and also using legal terms that they don’t understand. Therefore, you will need to hire someone who appreciates your efforts to get acquainted with probate law.
So, don’t be fooled by that framed law school degree hanging in the attorney’s office. You need to pay attention to how the lawyer explains the probate process. Moreover, you need to consider how well the attorney listens to your concerns, as well as their attitude towards you. Lastly, don’t make your decision immediately—this shows the attorney that you are desperate. Just tell the attorney that you will get back to them after making your decision.