Do You Need A Probate Lawyer If A Matter Isn’t Going To Probate?

The idea of hiring a probate lawyer if an estate isn't going to probate might sound silly. However, there are compelling reasons why parties to an estate might want to bring in a probate attorney. These four issues are the most compelling.


When people say that an estate isn't going to probate, that's not strictly true in the legal sense. Every estate goes to probate. The question is more about how much time it will spend in front of a probate judge at a hearing. Many cases effectively fly through the probate court without a single hearing. Instead, the estate's administrators follow the process and the judge signs off on everything as long as it looks good.

There is nothing wrong with this. However, it's still wise to have a probate attorney around to supervise the process. Judges often have questions, and it's nice to have a professional there to help you answer them.

Administrative Needs

Executors may encounter administrative issues while handling estates. A probate lawyer can assist with basic administrative tasks, such as filing reports with the court. Similarly, they can help an executor track down beneficiaries and notify them of any inheritances.

There are also concerns about the rights of creditors and tax agencies. An executor needs to identify and pay all of the outstanding obligations of the estate. If it's evident the estate is headed for a complex bankruptcy, a probate lawyer can help the executor and the creditors bring things together in an orderly manner.

Protecting Rights

Just because an estate looks like it'll be simple doesn't mean that's how things will play out. If you have a sizable stake in an estate as a beneficiary, it's prudent to hire a probate lawyer. They can watch how the executor and the court manage the process.

If there are concerns about the disposition of the estate, your counsel can then register those during the probate process. Ideally, you can catch and solve problems without hearings or litigation. Remember, probate exists to protect everyone's rights so there's nothing wrong with bringing an attorney into the picture.

Liability Exposure

Administrators may have liability exposure during the probate process. For example, an executor has a fiduciary duty to preserve the estate's value as much as possible. If an executor needs to use some of the estate's funds to repair a house, for example, they need to document and report those efforts. Otherwise, a beneficiary may have a damages claim for the loss of the money or the house's value.