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Key Considerations When Choosing a Probate Lawyer

If you have been named executor of a loved one’s estate, it is natural that you might feel overwhelmed by the many tasks that lay ahead. After all, the executor’s role involves more than ensuring the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the wishes outlined in their Will (which itself is an involved process). In addition, you need to obtain a death certificate, make funeral arrangements, ensure ongoing payments and debts are taken care of and file a tax return, among other responsibilities. Ensuring all of this is done in accordance with the law and in such a way that avoids family conflict is a tall order and, as such, it helps to seek guidance from an estate planning attorney.

Often, those tasked with administering a loved one’s estate assume that the attorney who drafted the deceased’s will is also the attorney best-suited to guiding them through probate. While this can be true, it is not always the case. As executor, what matters most when choosing an attorney is that they are both experienced and a person with whom you feel comfortable working. As you review options, keep in mind that you will consult your attorney not only on legal and financial matters but deeply personal ones, too. Accordingly, it is wise to speak to a number of attorneys before deciding which to hire.

When meeting with different lawyers, let each know of your plans to speak to various offices before deciding with which to work. In each conversation, aim to ask the following questions.

  1. What portion of your practice is dedicated to probate litigation, administration, and estate planning?
  2. How often do you practice before the court where my case will be handled?
  3. What past experience do you have working with similar cases?
  4. Do you foresee any potential complications?
  5. Can you provide a preliminary timeline for completion?
  6. What is the best way to stay in contact and how will progress be communicated?
  7. What are the estimated legal fees and expenses? Are there any other fees and expenses?

If the value of the estate you are handling numbers in the millions, you will also want to ask about whether state and federal taxes will be necessary and, if so, whether returns will be prepared.

As you listen to the attorney answer the questions listed above, pay attention to the details as much as to the clarity of their reply and the patience with which they meet your concerns. After all, the difficulty of probate rests not only in the legal complications but in the emotionally charged and sometimes extended nature of the process. As your guide, you want someone who communicates clearly and compassionately and who respects your efforts to understand your role and responsibilities.

To learn more about selecting an attorney to see you through the probate process or to address any other matter related to estate planning or elder law, do not hesitate to reach out to The Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith, P.C. either by calling our office at (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form on our website.

Monique Hineline

Smith & Smith are very professional, informative, and relatable with examples and stories to ease the estate planning process. I had the best time at their lunch and learn. Even if you already have your estate planning in place I highly recommend attending a lunch and learn. Thanks Smith & Smith!