If you recently lost a loved one and you were appointed to be the Executor of the estate, you must manage both your grief and be able to concentrate on the practical and legal ramifications of the decedent’s death. Probating an estate can be a complex and time-consuming endeavor, which is why many Executors choose to retain an experienced probate attorney to help them through the process. If you find yourself responsible for probating an estate, the Indianapolis probate attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain why you should consider hiring an attorney to help you.
What Is Probate?
Almost everyone leaves behind an estate when they die. A decedent’s estate consists of all assets owned by the individual at the time of death, including both real and personal property as well as tangible and intangible assets. Ultimately, those estate assets must be transferred to the new owners. If the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament, the terms of that Will dictate how the estate assets are to be distributed. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, the state intestate succession laws determine what happens to the estate assets. Before the estate assets can be transferred to the new owners, however, creditors of the estate must be given the opportunity to file claims against the estate and any gift and estate taxes owed by the estate must be calculated and paid. Probate is the legal process during which all of this happens. Probate also provides a forum for litigating any challenges to the estate.
Reasons to Hire a Probate Lawyer to Help You
Someone must administer the estate and oversee the probate process. If the decedent executed a Will prior to his/her death, that person is the individual named as the Executor in the Will. In an intestate estate, any competent adult can volunteer for the job pending court approval. Having an experienced probate lawyer on your side as you oversee the probate process is a good idea for numerous reasons, including:
- Navigating the legal system can be frustrating. Many people never have a need to navigate the legal system. Even those who have some experience with the legal system are not usually familiar with the probate process because probate court only handles issues relating to wills, trusts and estates and guardianships. Trying to navigate an unfamiliar legal system right after losing a loved one can be frustrating, to say the least. Hiring a probate lawyer to help you eliminates that course of frustration.
- A lawyer already understands the state and federal laws. Probate is governed by numerous state and federal laws that must be considered during the process. The average person has no reason to be familiar with these laws; however, as the Executor you will be held accountable for not abiding by any of the applicable laws.
- Mistakes can be costly. As a first time Executor, making a mistake is easy to do. Missing assets, under or over-valuing assets, failing to properly notify creditors, or miscalculating the amount of taxes due are just a few common mistakes. A mistake made during the probate of an estate can cost the estate a considerable amount of both time and money, which is yet another reason why having an attorney by your side is to your benefit.
- Having an attorney to act as a buffer reduces the likelihood of family feuds. Unfortunately, probate litigation is fairly common. An estate need not be extremely valuable for loved ones to start squabbling over it. Last minute changes to a Will, for example, will frequently prompt a challenge to the Will. Since there is a good chance the challenger will be a family member or close friend of the family, it can put you in an awkward position. If you have an attorney onboard, however, he/she can act as a buffer to help prevent long-term family conflicts.
- You may not have the time required to properly administer the estate. Generally, the larger and/or more valuable an estate is, the more time consuming the probate process will be. If you have a demanding job and/or a family of your own, it may be difficult to devote the time and attention required to properly probate the estate, which adds a final reason why retaining a probate lawyer to help you is a wise decision.
Contact Indianapolis Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about probating an estate, contact the experienced Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.