If you have been named as executor of a will and the person has died, you may wonder if you can go through the probate court without an attorney or if it is best to hire one. For simple wills that contain few assets and only a couple of heirs, you may be able to probate the will yourself, but in many situations, you should consult with a probate law office. The following are just a few examples of when you need a probate attorney.
The heirs to the estate are fighting
If there are multiple heirs in the will and at least two of these heirs are fighting over their inheritance, it could get out of hand quickly. It only takes one party to decide to challenge the will, and you may find yourself in court. It is best to consult with a probate attorney at the first sign of trouble to find out what preemptive actions you can make, or to at least get a head start on preparing for a challenge to the will.
The transfer of certain assets is complicated
When transferring assets to those named in the will, many of these assets are simple and can be done easily. Examples of this type of asset would be a bank account or a title to a car. But there are assets that you may not be familiar with, and transferring ownership to an heir is not something you clearly understand. Any time there are questions about changing ownership of an asset, you need to consult with an attorney.
The will is confusing
This is especially true if there is more than one beneficiary, but the distribution of assets is not clear. Each state has laws regarding the distribution of assets when there is no will, and an attorney can brief you on these laws. It may be the case that a judge will be able to interpret the will and rule on its contents. In addition to a confusing will, the source of the confusion can be two wills, and it is not clear which one was the most recent. There are laws governing this situation, and a lawyer can help you with the process of probate with two wills.
The debts of the deceased are greater than the assets
After adding up all of the assets and all of the debts, you find that the deceased owed more money than he or she was worth. In this situation, you need to consult with an attorney because legally, there exists a priority ranking of debts. In addition to this, there are certain assets that are protected after an individual dies.
Although you can go through probate without an attorney, there are many situations where you are better off with legal counsel. Never hesitate to contact a probate lawyer for any questions you might have.