Probate can be a long, complicated process.
Between the filings, deadlines, and court hearings, people often ask, Do I need a lawyer for probate?
In most cases, the answer is yes.
However, even when a probate attorney isn’t required by law, their services are invaluable and can often save you time and money when probating an estate.
What Is Probate?
Probate means to prove the authenticity of a deceased person’s (the decedent’s) will. However, the process involves much more than that.
In general, probate requires the executor to complete the following tasks:
- Submitting estate planning documents, if any;
- Identifying and valuing assets;
- Notifying creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries of the probate proceeding;
- Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes; and
- Distributing remaining assets to the legal heirs and beneficiaries.
Some probate proceedings are more involved, particularly if the decedent’s estate is taxable, if the estate includes hard-to-value assets, or if someone files a claim against the estate.
While not every estate goes through probate, for those that do, a probate attorney can make the process smoother.
Do I Need a Probate Attorney In Texas?
Probate is a court-supervised, legal proceeding. Having a legal expert to guide you through the process and explain the law can avoid unnecessary delays and give you peace of mind.
Because an executor represents an estate’s beneficiaries, they’re typically required to have an attorney.
Texas offers a simplified version of probate called a muniment of title.
When this process is used, no executor is appointed, which allows you to file a muniment of title without an attorney.
However, specific information needs to be provided when applying for the probate of a will as a muniment of title.
An attorney can take the guesswork out of probate, regardless of whether it’s a full proceeding or a muniment of title.
How Can a Probate Attorney Help?
It’s helpful to understand what probate lawyers do when answering the question, Do I need a lawyer for probate?
General Probate Matters
A probate attorney can help with settling an estate in a variety of different ways.
First, and most importantly, a probate lawyer will determine if probate is necessary. Only estates with certain assets have to be probated.
If you do have to probate the estate, an attorney can get the process in motion.
There are statutory requirements under Texas’ Estates Code when filing the paperwork to initiate probate.
An experienced probate lawyer can help with the following tasks:
- Completing and filing the petition for probate with the appropriate court;
- Identifying and assisting in valuing assets;
- Sending notice of probate to heirs and creditors;
- Communicating with the probate court;
- Identifying and resolving estate, gift, and income tax issues;
- Assisting in distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
Typically, an executor manages these tasks. Because an executor is representing the interests of the estate beneficiaries during probate, an executor needs legal representation.
An estate may become a party to a lawsuit for any number of reasons.
For example, an interested party may contest the validity of the decedent’s will and file a petition against the estate.
A probate attorney can represent either the executor or beneficiary in this type of matter.
Alleviate Family Disagreements
It’s difficult to lose a loved one. Strong emotions often surface during these times, and families can struggle to see eye-to-eye.
An attorney can help explain the legal concepts and discuss the rights of the family members involved.
Quickly resolving disagreements can help the probate process go more smoothly.
How Much Is a Probate Lawyer in Texas?
The cost to hire a probate attorney in Texas varies greatly. The complexity of the estate and the experience of the probate lawyer will influence the cost.
Attorneys typically charge either a flat fee or by the hour. A probate proceeding that is more complicated will require more time, experience, and money to complete.
Keep in mind the estate pays all attorney fees.
How Long Does Probate Take to Complete?
Each probate proceeding is different, so there’s no average time to complete the process. The more complex the estate, the longer probate takes.
The time frame ranges from a few months to several years. However, a probate attorney can expedite the process by ensuring documents are complete and filed on time.
Contact the Probate Attorneys at Massingill Today
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Contact us online or call our office to schedule a consultation via phone, video, or in person.