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Settling an estate?
Why you will need a Probate Attorney...

By Brian French CEO, www.EstateSettlement.com
Articles may be available for distribution

In times of stress an attorney can be an indispensable asset. Nowhere is this more apparent than during estate settlement and probate proceedings. Probate laws are complex and virtually no individual (other than a probate attorney) has adequate training in such an arcane and complex area.  

When a person dies the family carries a heavy burden of grief and bereavement, a circumstance that they are never prepared for. Compounding their anxiety is the onerous task of properly settling the estate. A qualified probate attorney can ease the tension in this difficult situation.

Why hire a Probate Attorney?
Unfortunately, the law waits for no one, a decedent’s estate must be settled in a timely manner.   The responsibility of who will settle the estate is determined by the Last Will and Testament of the decedent. The person named in the will to complete the task is called the executor of the estate.   Through the probate proceeding (which is the process of proving the validity of the will) the court appoints the executor to be the personal representative of the estate. Hiring a qualified probate attorney should be one of the estate’s first and top priorities.

If a person dies without a valid will, the decedent is deemed to die "intestate". Under this process the division of estate property is determined by state statutes, as articulated in the state for which the decedent was domiciled. For this reason, it is important to hire a probate attorney located in the decedent’s home state. Assets titled in trust name usually avoid the probate process entirely, thus providing greater privacy and lower administrative costs and fewer time delays for the probate attorney in distributing assets.

How a probate attorney can help
As you might expect, every estate is different and has unique assets to be; valued, sold or distributed to beneficiaries. But before an executor takes any action they should consultant with the probate attorney, to prevent a mistake that may be difficult to reverse. The settlement of an estate can take anywhere from 9 months to several years to be fully paid out and closed, but the probate attorney will be your best guide in this area too.

One of the greatest advantages of dealing with an experienced probate attorney is their ability to protect the executor from legal of financial liability. The repercussions of inadvertently mishandling estate affairs can be severe.   The executor or personal representative has inherent fiduciary duties of loyalty to the estate.   Fiduciary duties are one of the first topics that all executors should discuss with a probate attorney.

Sometimes an executor’s “good intentions” can lead to big problems. For example, allowing a friend or family member to use the decedent’s property or car may expose the estate to liability. Out of generosity, hardship or pressure from a family member the executor may over distribute assets to a beneficiary and then have inadequate funds to pay the remaining beneficiaries their share or to satisfy the estate final expenses. When this happens, the executor may to make up the difference with their personal funds to pay any unpaid expenses. An experienced probate attorney can help prevent this.  

Hire a probate attorney early
For executors to navigate these waters alone, without a probate attorney, may place the executor in legal jeopardy and cost them personally.   Estate settlement is no places for a do- it-yourselfer the adverse consequences, legally, financially, and emotionally are simply be too high. Talk to a probate attorney early in the process, along with saving you time they may save you something much more important… your peace of mind.

All Copyrights apply © Estate Settlement LLC2008
For more information about how to work effectively with probate attorneys contact the author:

Brian French is the owner and CEO of www.EstateSettlement.com   a free internet based consumer reference site. Probate attorneys and estate professionals can list their professional practice in the EstateSettlement.com directory. Brian@EstateSettlement.com

Are you executor of the estate and have further questions.

Executor of the Estate:
Resources and Topics

Article #1 Settling an estate?
Why you will need a Probate Attorney

Article #2 How to select a Probate Attorney

Article #3 Effectively working with your Probate Attorney, to reduce costs

Article #4 Keeping the family together; before, during and after probate

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