Have you written a will? You may think you don’t need to–that writing a will is something for older people. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Writing a will isn’t the end of the estate management process, though.
To prove a will and distribute assets requires a process called probate. That means you’ll need to spend time picking probate attorneys if you’re handling a loved one’s will.
No matter where you live, you’ll likely have a lot of probate attorney options; the question is, how do you distinguish one attorney from the other? How do you find the perfect attorney to help prove the will?
It can be a daunting process, but there are a few things you can check for that will help you determine if a probate attorney is right for you.
Read on to learn seven factors your should consider when picking probate attorneys.
1. Services and Specialties
First, you need to find an attorney that can actually serve your needs. Many kinds of attorneys are available; you need to find a probate law firm to handle estate issues.
As stated above, probate attorneys are the people responsible for proving the legality of a will and ensuring the proper distribution of the deceased’s assets. Click here for more info.
The first thing you should do is narrow your search to attorneys that are certified in state law.
An attorney specializing in estate law will make the process run smoothly; they’re trained to know how to approach a probate case and anticipate potential issues before those issues arise.
Don’t hire the first probate law firm you find–do a bit of research on them first to make sure they’re a reputable organization. There are many unscrupulous and unskilled attorneys who will waste your money.
One of the easiest ways to discover an attorney’s reputation is by reading online reviews. These can give you a decent understanding of how a probate attorney operates and if they’re trustworthy.
If possible, talk with former clients to get a more in-depth description. You might even be able to get recommendations from judges or other lawyers who don’t practice estate law.
Those endorsements can say a lot about the character of the attorney you’re seeking to hire.
The attorney you hire must know what they’re doing, and experience is the best teacher. Find someone who has a wealth of experience dealing with cases similar to yours.
An attorney fresh out of law school might have a solid understanding of how the probate process works, but they won’t have the same level of knowledge as someone who has done this kind of work for years.
Experienced attorneys know all the potential pitfalls to look out for; no matter how complex or simple your case is, they’ll know how to handle it because they’ve probably handled much trickier cases.
While money is the last thing on your mind when grieving a loved one, it’s important to spend some time comparing attorney fees, as well as their structure.
There are several possible fee structures you might see when picking probate attorneys. Some will want a percentage of the estate’s asset value; others will charge you by the hour.
It’s important to establish exactly what the attorney wants up-front so that you understand what you’ll owe. You should also pinpoint exactly when you’ll be billed.
Be sure to get the entire agreement in writing to ensure that the law firm doesn’t add extra fees or otherwise overcharge you.
This might seem obvious, but you should try to find a local attorney. You need someone that you can reach easily and close enough to handle the probate process in person.
Dealing with a will can be a lengthy process; you’ll likely need to visit your attorney’s office multiple times. Prioritize finding an attorney who is close enough to drive to regularly.
On the topic of meeting with your attorney: schedule consultations with the law firms you’re interested in. A reliable firm will be happy to meet with you to check over the details of your case.
These meetings are a great chance to get a first impression of your attorney to make sure they’re a good fit.
6. The Size of the Estate
A lot hinges on the size of the estate you’re dealing with. The larger the estate, the more assets and such to be divided in the will, the more complex the case will get.
If the estate in question is large, all of the points we’ve already covered become even more important. Extra experience will be even more important, as will the law firm’s fee structure.
On the other hand, if the estate is small, you’ll have a bit more wiggle room in some of these areas. In some cases, you may not even need to hire an attorney, to begin with.
This element is key: does the attorney communicate well? Clarity of communication is crucial in law, but especially when dealing with a sensitive subject like a will.
Ensure that you have a reliable line of communication with your attorney and that they are patient and responsive to your requests and questions. Otherwise, you’re in for a lot of frustration.
You should also find someone who communicates with empathy and kindness. You’re already dealing with the loss of a loved one; you don’t need the added stress of a rude, unhelpful attorney.
The consultation meeting suggested earlier is a great opportunity to understand how the attorney communicates: are they kind and understanding or cold and dismissive?
Picking Probate Attorneys Just Got Easier
Dealing with a will can be difficult, but having the right probate attorney to help can make all the difference. That’s why picking probate attorneys is an important process that requires research and care.
Having a will and sound estate management won’t count for much if you don’t manage your financial situation properly. Visit our money blog for tips on investing and more.