Losing a loved one is never easy. When disagreements or challenges arise surrounding their will or other estate plan documents, the situation can become even more challenging. Hiring a probate lawyer is one way to avoid conflict, navigate complex arrangements, and take advantage of lesser-known laws or provisions.
In addition, hiring a probate attorney is one way for concerned family members to ensure their loved one’s last wishes are carried out accurately and efficiently.
Keep reading to learn more about the probate process in Michigan and find out about five reasons you may want to hire a probate lawyer.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
The process of deciding whether a deceased person’s will is accurate and valid and then settling the deceased person’s estate happens in probate court. When someone dies, a probate court must:
- Authenticate the deceased person’s will
- Find all their assets (their estate) and determine the value of those assets
- Use the estate to pay the deceased person’s bills and taxes
- Distribute what’s left of the estate to the people who are entitled
Sometimes people use the word “probate” to describe the court, and sometimes they use it to describe the process (“we went through probate,” or even, “we probated the estate”).
Sometimes, the probate process is straightforward, and the executor of the estate can easily carry out their duties. But when a will isn’t clear or there is no will, the executor may need help mediating conflict, understanding unclear directives, and more. Otherwise, the executor could be held liable for the mistakes.
A probate attorney can help make sure the estate plan is carried out efficiently and accurately. Plus, the executor of the estate doesn’t have to take responsibility for paying the probate attorney. Instead, the attorney gets paid out of the estate.
5 Ways a Probate Attorney Can Help
If you’re the executor of the estate and you’re finding the probate process to be a challenge, the best option is usually to hire an experienced probate attorney. Here are three ways a probate attorney can help families manage and distribute the estate.
1. Mediate Conflict Between Family Members
Family members may disagree about how to settle an estate, especially when the deceased person didn’t leave a will or has a will that’s unclear. If you’re the executor, a probate lawyer can help you carry out the deceased person’s last wishes as intended. A probate attorney can also mediate conflicts with family members and offer clear explanations for how the estate is being handled and why. And, hiring a lawyer reduces the chance that someone could accuse you of not handling the estate properly.
2. Navigate Complex or Unusual Situations
Sometimes, unusual situations arise during probate, and a non-lawyer may struggle to understand and address those situations. For example, a relative may have been excluded from an estate and could bring a claim against the estate, arguing they should have been included in the will. Navigating a conflict like this can be challenging without an attorney who can interpret the will, deal with the relevant parties, and carry out the instructions of the will as written.
3. Avoid Pitfalls and Mistakes
Hiring a probate attorney is still a wise choice even if your entire family agrees about how to handle the estate. Probate can be a complex process, and if you don’t file the right documents at the right time, the court may reject your attempt to probate the estate. And once the process begins, there are many rules and procedures you need to know. A single mistake can slow down the process or even expose you to a potential lawsuit. An attorney can help you avoid mistakes and make sure you’re protected throughout the process. Also, an experienced probate attorney can help you make the most of exemptions and other aspects of the law as you probate the estate.
4. Speed Up Probate
Probate always takes time — often more than a year, and rarely faster than a few months. Even if you hire an attorney, there’s no such thing as “instant probate.” However, when you hire a lawyer, they can use their experience and resources to make sure the probate process goes as efficiently and smoothly as possible. The result is that you may be able to access the estate much earlier than you would have on your own.
5. Pay Debts Properly (and Avoid Overpaying)
Usually, a deceased person will owe some debts when they pass. If nothing else, their estate will usually owe some taxes and funeral expenses. However, you may also find that the deceased person had other significant debts, and now you’re dealing with a variety of creditors all lining up for a piece of the estate.
Figuring out who gets paid, how much, and in what order can be a complicated process. There’s also a risk you could overpay or underpay if you make a mistake. An attorney can guide you through the process of paying debts and make sure everyone gets paid the correct amount so you can settle the remaining estate.
Need Help With Probate in Grand Rapids or West Michigan? Contact the Law Office of Kari Santana
At the Law Office of Kari Santana, we’re dedicated to helping families like yours navigate life after loss. If you have questions about probate or need help with the probate process, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can help you understand your family’s options and explain what to do next.
To get started today, call us at (616) 717-5759 or use our quick and easy consultation form below.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.