What Is a Probate Attorney?

A Denver probate attorney is any licensed lawyer who is able to advise an executor or the beneficiaries of the estate on how to get the estate through the probate process. Probate is a process where the will must be proven as valid in the courts and the property is then divided amongst the beneficiaries after creditors are paid. Estates will generally go through probate unless the decedent has taken steps in advance to avoid the process. Oftentimes, there are legal issues surrounding this that must be resolved before the estate assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This could include challenges from the beneficiaries or creditor claims to assets of the estate. The Denver probate attorney is the lawyer who will handle any and all issues that arise during this period. 

What Does a Probate Attorney Do?

The probate lawyer will advise the personal representative on the process, which may include the following:

  • Inventorying and valuing the estate’s assets
  • Paying the state and federal income taxes owed by the estate
  • Paying any bills, debts or expenses owed by the estate
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries

While this process is hopefully orderly, sometimes it is not. The probate attorney will use their professional skill to complete this process and smoothly and quickly as the facts and the court allow. In general, the probate attorney will make sure that the executor follows the required timelines and document formats. They will keep everything on track to the extent that all of the interested parties allow it. In the event that there is an issue, they will act to help resolve the issue. While it is generally the representative who hires a probate attorney, anyone with an interest in the estate can hire a probate attorney of their own. 

How to Find a Probate Attorney?

In order to find a probate attorney, you could take one of several different steps. One of the most effective means of finding a probate attorney is to get a recommendation from someone who has previously used the services of that attorney. Word of mouth is a generally a reliable way to find the services of an attorney since the person recommending that lawyer will have had a good experience. In addition, you can also search a number of different online directories. It is important to look for an attorney that has skills that are dedicated to probate law. There are rules that are unique to probate that not everyone will know. If the attorney makes a mistake, it can add more time to the probate process. Finally, you can find a probate attorney by going to a class or a seminar where instructors are presenting about topics related to wills and trusts. Probate attorneys often hold these seminars to help make connections with potential new clients. 

How Much Does a Probate Attorney Cost?

The cost of a probate attorney can depend on a number of different factors. First, the attorney may bill for the case in one of two different ways. They can charge you on an hourly basis, collecting a retainer at the outset which will need to be replenished as the amount is drawn down. Another arrangement that is gaining in popularity is a flat fee billing arrangement for the entire process. However, given the complexity of probate, some lawyers may hesitate to guarantee a certain fee because the matter may turn out to take much longer than anticipated. Of course, the total cost of the proceeding will depend on the size of the estate and how difficult the process is. When there is a contested estate that requires extensive legal proceedings, the cost of the legal services will increase. A small handful of states allow the probate attorney to charge a percentage of the total amount of the estate. When it comes to costs, it is important to have a discussion with the attorney before you retain them and that you have a fee agreement in advance. In general, you can expect the costs of probate, including attorney’s fees and court costs to reach up to five percent of the value of the estate. The more challenges the probate attorney faces, the higher the costs. 

Who Pays for the Probate Attorney?

First, bear in mind that the cost of the probate attorney is coming from the estate as opposed to the executor. The executor can hire an attorney and the fees will come off the top of the estate and will reduce the amount of the estate that is divided among the heirs. Bear in mind that there will also be court fees and other expenses associated with the case that the estate will have to pay as well. The fees that the attorney may charge are not unlimited. Their costs are governed by the rules of professional responsibility. Some states have caps on fees that are imposed by their statutes. The bottom line is that these costs cannot be unreasonable, although reasonableness is a function of the facts and circumstances of each particular situation.

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