Throughout the course of your lifetime you will likely need the assistance and/or guidance of several different types of attorneys. Often, it is clear what type of attorney you need based on the type of legal issue you have. For example, if you find yourself under arrest you clearly need to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. Likewise, if you decide to end a marriage, you need a family law attorney to represent you in the divorce. With other types of legal matters, however, it may not be as clear what type of lawyer you need. For example, what, do probate lawyers do and how do you know when you need to consult with, or retain, one? The Indianapolis probate attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain what probate lawyers do.
What Is Probate?
When an individual dies, he or she will leave behind an estate that consists of all assets owned by the decedent, or in which the decedent had any ownership interest, at the time of his/her death. Some estates are modest, only consisting of personal property, while others are vast, consisting of complex assets along with both tangible and intangible property. To ensure that a decedent’s estate is handled property, the law typically requires that estate to pass through the legal process known as probate. Probate serves several purposes, including:
- Authenticating the decedent’s Last Will and Testament if applicable.
- Identifying, locating, and valuing estate assets
- Allowing creditors to file claims against the estate
- Litigating any challenges to the Will
- Ensuring that taxes owed by the decedent and/or the estate are paid
- Effectuating the transfer of estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
What Role Do Probate Lawyers Play in the Probate Process?
Probate can be a lengthy and costly process if the decedent failed to incorporate probate avoidance strategies in his/her estate plan. Because the average person does not deal with probate related issues very often, it can also be a rather intimidating process for those involved. Navigating the judicial system is difficult enough under the best of circumstances. For someone who has recently lost a loved one, trying to navigate the probate process can be even more challenging. This is often where probate lawyers can help.
For example, if you were named as the Executor in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, or you are planning to volunteer to be the Personal Representative of an intestate estate (when the decedent did not leave behind a Will), you will likely want to retain the assistance of an experienced probate attorney to assist you in the performance of your duties and responsibilities to ensure that they are carried out correctly.
Another common scenario where you may need the assistance of a probate lawyer is if you plan to contest the Will submitted to probate. Contesting a Will requires you to allege, and ultimately prove, that the Will is invalid for one of a limited number of legal reasons. To succeed with a Will contest, it is in your best interest to have an experienced New Jersey probate attorney on your side.
You might also find yourself being the creditor of the estate of someone who recently died. When that is the case, you have a limited amount of time within which you must file a claim against the estate for payment of the debt owed to you. A probate lawyer can help you prepare and file your claim as well as litigate the claim if the Executor does not initially approve the claim.
Finally, probate lawyers can also help you during the estate planning process by explaining tools and strategies you may wish to incorporate into your estate plan to help your estate avoid probate. By including probate avoidance strategies in your estate plan, you will be saving your loved ones a considerable amount of both time and money when it comes time to probate your estate.
Contact Indianapolis Probate Lawyers
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about probate, contact the experienced Indianapolis probate lawyers at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.