How Can A Probate Attorney Help With An Estate?

What does a Probate Attorney do?

When a family member or loved one passes away, you may be responsible for settling their affairs and “probating his/her will.” Probate is the court-supervised process used to transfer your loved one’s assets to the appropriate heirs and beneficiaries. In doing so, a Personal Representative of the Estate may also be appointed. Having a probate attorney assisting you can make the process go much smoother. For example, in Massachusetts, the process can lasts approximately 1.5 years, and can quickly get expensive if it is not completed properly.  At 20WestLegal we understand that it is challenging enough to experience the loss of a loved one, so we will guide you through each step of the probate process to eliminate the confusion and alleviate the stress.

A Probate Attorney will help you every step of the way.

Whether your loved one’s estate is complex or relatively simple, our lawyers will explain your legal responsibilities and help guide you through the often confusing probate/estate settlement process, including issues related to:

  • Identifying and safeguarding estate property: Even though it can be difficult to remember all of the property your loved one may have owned, as the settler of the estate ― also known as a personal representative – you should secure all assets, prepare a complete inventory and obtain values. One thing you should also do is contact your loved one’s employer to find out if they offered death benefits and to ask about 401(k)s, IRAs, pension and stock benefits.

  • Identifying heirs: You should also gather the names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and relationships of any possible heirs. Include any children and siblings of your loved one who may already be deceased (because the children, nieces and nephews of those individuals may now be entitled to an inheritance).

  • Identifying creditors: Contrary to popular belief, it is incorrect to think that your loved one’s debt will simply be forgiven upon his or her death. In fact, there is a hierarchy established in the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code specifying which creditors have priority over other creditors. If, as the personal representative, you fail to abide by these rules, you may be held personally accountable.

  • Resolving disputes: Unfortunately, not all estates are settled without disputes. Indeed, disputes may arise for a variety of reasons, including when beneficiaries disagree or when the personal representative is dealing with an outdated will. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, litigation may be necessary. In any case, we can help.

Having a probate attorney at your side can be a huge relief to the process of managing all the factors that go into settling an estate and we give each client the attention and time they need to be sure this is done correctly and smoothly.