If you are interested in a career in law and people’s assets and property, then you should consider a career as an estate attorney, called a “probate lawyer”. Knowing what a probate lawyer does and what is required to become this type of lawyer can help you decide if it’s the right career path for you.
What is a probate attorney?
What is the definition of a probate lawyer?
A probate lawyer is a licensed attorney who works to advise a client about how to secure their assets when they die. This might include planning for disbursement of their property, creating a trust and selecting the administrator of that trust from their existing family, or helping family members through the probate process after a loved one has died.
In essence, a probate lawyer helps people to get their financial affairs in order prior to their death and helps to ensure that their final wishes are followed once they pass away.
What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?
A probate lawyer is responsible for a variety of tasks. Probate lawyers guide their clients through the probate process and help them to create and design their last will and testament or an estate plan. They may also advise beneficiaries on different issues relating to the probate process. A probate lawyer can, additionally, handle issues such as:
- Determining any owed taxes on an estate and helping to pay them.
- Facilitating the sale of any estate property.
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries.
- Facilitating appraisals for the property of the deceased.
- Managing the estate’ checkbook.
- Helping an Executor find and distribute assets.
- Providing legal advice about Powers of Attorney.
- Settling disputes amongst beneficiaries and an executor.
- Helping to plan living trusts or Wills.
- Facilitating the sale of estate property.
- Collecting and distributing proceeds of life insurance.
- Advising clients on how to pay any last bills or outstanding debt.
- Preparing all documents necessary for probate court.
You can prepare your last will and testament in advance to ensure you have a ready-to-go document to present to your probate lawyer. For instance, if you’re from Texas, you can fill out and download Last Will and Testament, which is specifically customized for your state.
What Is the Role of a Probate Lawyer?
A probate lawyer can serve one of two roles:
- Helping a client plan for their assets. This process can include things like drafting a will, setting up a trust for larger assets, and making sure that all legal paperwork is in place to disperse an inheritance to beneficiaries or heirs. This role can include giving advice about structuring a business so that it can be given to a child to take over or liquidating ownership in a business and then giving that liquidation to a child. It can include information about taxes, advising a client about any property or state taxes that family members might have to face, and setting up funds as part of the will or trust to cover these costs.
- Helping family members negotiate the probate process once a loved one has died. For example, if John used a probate lawyer to plan his estate and then passed away, John’s family might consider the same probate lawyer to help them file the correct paperwork in Probate Court in order to get their inheritance or submit paperwork to contest the executor of the will. Many of the tasks that a probate lawyer completes for family members, such as helping the executor locate and secure assets, giving advice on Final taxes, handling the checkbook of the deceased, or settling negotiations between beneficiaries, will fall under this category.
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How to Become a Probate Lawyer
If you are ready to become a probate lawyer, here are a few simple steps you have to follow:
Go to College
First, you must get your undergraduate degree. This can be from any University or college and in any field. In fact, law schools are always looking for diverse backgrounds for their incoming students. You can selectively choose a background in business management as your undergraduate, or in Family Psychology, or even Communications and be able to successfully apply the skills you have learned from those undergraduate degrees to your career as a probate attorney.
Pass the LSAT
Before you can apply for law school you must take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). The more you study for this test, the higher your chances of getting a passing grade.
Go to Law School
Once you pass the LSAT, then you can apply for law school. Consider going to a law school that has a program specifically for estate attorneys. Estate law programs will have the classes you need for trusts and asset management, estate planning, and family law, all of which will play a significant role in your work as a probate lawyer.
Pass Your State Bar
After you graduate from law school, you must decide where you want to practice. Most people choose to practice in the state where they live, but you can always move to another state and practice there. No matter where you live, you must pass the State Bar for that state.
Learn the Uniform Probate Code
Once you have passed the State Bar, you are legally cleared to begin practicing as a probate lawyer. The uniform probate code gives you the necessary information on rules and limits and will help you practice appropriately in your state. There is a uniform probate code for each state so make sure to learn the one that applies to where you practice.
Overall, a probate lawyer helps settle affairs relating to estate planning and asset management. As an attorney you can help families plan for their passing, and help families when a loved one passes. Becoming a probate attorney takes years of education but can be a very rewarding career.