Should You Hire a Probate Lawyer?

Estate planning can be a complicated process, but with so many online resources at your disposal, is it really necessary to hire a probate lawyer? There are many factors to consider when you begin the process of creating a will and distributing assets. This is a decision that has the potential to impact you and your family for years to come, so it is best to weigh your options carefully. Estates that are relatively simple can usually be handled by the executor alone. Before determining whether you’ll need an estate planning attorney, there are several questions you should ask yourself.

What is your budget?

Hiring a lawyer will be an added expense to be paid by the estate in addition to any outstanding debts or taxes. If the estate is relatively large, legal expenses should be covered by the sale of assets, etc. Many probate attorneys offer free consultations if you would like to get an idea of what you will need to do, but in the event that you need to hire a lawyer, make sure you have the means to cover legal expenses. Generally, legal and probate costs will amount to around five percent of an estate’s value.

How complex is the estate?

Often, states will have “small estate” procedures in place to make it easy for the will’s executor to transfer assets through probate court for estates that are below a certain value. These special circumstances often allow you to avoid probate court altogether by presenting a sworn affidavit and expedite the process considerably. Each state has different guidelines for who meets these criteria, so it may require some preliminary research and legal advice to determine whether you qualify. An estate involving business interests or commercial real estate, for example, probably would be unable to bypass the probate process and would require the help of an attorney.

Do you need to go through probate?

This depends on whether certain probate avoidance steps were taken, such as the creation of a living trust and naming beneficiaries to make transferring assets automatic. If probate is necessary, learn the procedures you will have to go through as part of the process. This can differ by state, so it is best to become familiar with the probate code that is used by your state. Many states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, which simplifies the process.

Will the estate owe state and/or federal taxes?

The vast majority of estates are not subject to federal estate tax. However, almost twenty states impose their own estate taxes, many of them on estates valued at one million dollars or more. If your estate involves a house, real estate, and other assets, it is possible that it may exceed that threshold. If the estate needs to file an estate tax return, it is probable that expert advice would be required.

For estate planning advice from an attorney experienced with New York probate law, contact trusted Queens probate lawyer Richard Cary Spivack .