Probate is the legal process designed to distribute property from a deceased person’s estate to their heirs. To facilitate this process, an executor named in the Will or, in cases of intestacy, an administrator is declared the estate’s representative. A probate attorney will then help the executor or administrator to gather the assets of the estate, prepare all of the estate’s tax returns, communicate with beneficiaries, and protect the executor and administrator from personal liability for any errors that may be harmful to beneficiaries.
The rules and laws pertaining to probating an estate can be quite complex, and it is the probate attorney’s primary duty to ensure that no mistakes are made. The probate attorney will advise the executor or administrator regarding various tasks, such as selling the deceased person’s real estate and personal property, completing fiduciary and final tax returns, closing or transferring businesses, and settling any disputes that may occur.
Beneficiaries of the estate may also hire a probate attorney to represent them and protect their interests. The attorney will communicate with the executor or other beneficiaries on the beneficiary’s behalf to settle disputes, interpret tax returns and accountings, and file petitions for accountings. In some cases, the beneficiary is required to pay the attorney. While in other cases, the estate or the executor has to pay the attorney fees.
Probate attorneys can be paid hourly for their services or receive a percentage of the estate as payment (see Attorney Commissions from Johnson Estate, 4 Fid. Rep. 2d 61 8 (O.C. Del. Co. 1983) for their services to the executor or administrator. These payments can be taken from the estate.
If you have questions related to the probate process, contact us today.