The services of a probate lawyer are required when a will is contested in the court. The probate process is carried out to divide the decedent’s property among the beneficiaries.
The process can become overwhelming because you simultaneously have to deal with the loss of the loved one and prepare for a complicated legal process.
In this situation, hiring a competent probate attorney should be your priority. Fortunately, with some basic knowledge and research, you can narrow down your search for a lawyer who prioritizes your best interests.
Do some homework before you meet the attorney:
It is prudent to learn about the common legal probate issues before talking to a lawyer. For instance, learn the difference between a living trust and a will, and know about the parts of the proceeding that you can take care of yourself.
Besides, accumulate all the essential documents related to the decedent and his or her property. Normally, these include the will of the deceased, recent financial statements, death certificate, bills for any obligations, and details of all the beneficiaries listed in the will.
The initial homework will help you gauge the complexity of the case and put precise questions to the lawyer at the first meeting, during the consultation, and throughout the probate.
Questions to ask a probate lawyer:
After you have arranged the first meeting with a probate lawyer, here are the questions you should ask them if they are the right choice for you.
1) Ask about their legal qualification:
The first thing you need to ask about is the qualification of the prospective attorney. You need an attorney who is qualified enough to fight your case in the court. Ask about their legal qualifications and any specific training in the realm of probate law.
2) How long have you been practicing?
It is a no-brainer to go for the most experienced lawyer possible. Some lawyers may have basic knowledge, but they may lack an in-depth understanding of the probate process.
A probate lawyer who is well-versed about the law and has a wealth of legal experience can increase your chances of winning the case. Such lawyers would have fought many cases in the courts and can deftly handle any complications that arise during the case.
Seasoned lawyers are less likely to make mistakes that may lead to liability on the executor. They will also take much less time to bring the case to a conclusion compared to inexperienced lawyers.
Although any probate lawyer will navigate a less-complicated situation; however, it is the experienced lawyer who will shine when it comes to cases that involve more than one trust and multiple beneficiaries.
3) Ask about their rates
Most probate lawyers charge the clients in two ways for their service. Some tend to charge by the hour for probate work. The hourly rates depend on the experience of the lawyer and the place where you live. In most states, these rates are determined by state law.
Some lawyers prefer a flat fee for the entire case instead of billing by the hour. They are experienced lawyers who know how long a probate case may take. Hence, they quote a lump sum and avoid keeping records of the time that they have to spend on the case.
Attorneys in some states can also collect a percentage of property’s value as their fee. The court inspects the invoices and pays the lawyers accordingly under dependent’s administrations. In any case, you need to ask about the billing model in the first meeting to avoid complications.
4) How long will my probate case take?
While there is no fixed duration that a probate case might take, a seasoned probate lawyer will be able to provide an estimate that will be close to the time it will take to get the verdict.
This is an essential question because incompetent lawyers may not be able to answer this question properly and dodge it to get more money.
If there are no court challenges, the process is usually settled in a short time. However, cases may linger if there are allegations of misconduct or conflicts among the beneficiaries.
5) How easily can I reach the lawyer?
The question will give a comfort level to clients who may want to contact the lawyer during a case. Some lawyers may answer your calls or emails within 24 hours, while others may take days to answer your questions.
Ask about the communication process beforehand and choose the attorney that you feel more comfortable with.
Finding the right probate lawyer for your case may seem like a daunting task. However, by asking the right questions initially, you will not only choose the right lawyer but also get in control of the process during the entire duration of the case.