Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer for Probate?

Posted on: 23 June 2021

If you're in the early stages of dealing with the probate court, there's a decent chance that an examiner may send you notes. You might wonder about these, and they might make you wonder if you need to hire a probate lawyer. The circumstances for when you may need to retain the services of a probate attorney vary, but here are three ways to tell based on the probate notes.

1. Simple Clarifications and Corrections

Many examiners need to clarify information and make corrections. This is a common thing, and it's generally benign. If the examiner is seeking corrections like spellings or clarifications about all of the names of the beneficiaries of the estate, you may not need counsel. However, it's not the worst thing in the world to have a probate lawyer look over the notes and help you with the corrections and clarifications.

Bear in mind the probate court has a role in handling nearly all estates. Frequently, this involves making sure you handle administrative issues well. Consequently, these sorts of notes are common.

2. Questions Regarding the Administration of the Estate

This is a signal you might want to speak with a probate attorney. Generally, an examiner doesn't have a lot of questions if a will names an executor and the executor is willing to serve in the role. If the examiner has doubts about the administration of the estate, then you may need counsel.

It's worth noting this is likely less of a potential issue if the named executor can't serve and there's a named successor. An examiner might have some questions about the successorship, but that's normal. Typically, the successor becomes the executor and all is well.

Absent an executor, you're probably looking at a judge appointing an administrator. This will be an officer of the court, and you won't have much say in who the judge names. You may want to consult with a probate lawyer if you have questions about the appointment of an administrator.

3. Valuation of the Estate

One reason a probate examiner may send notes is if they have doubts about the valuation of the estate. This is especially the case if the examiner believes the estate is being undervalued to avoid probate. You'll want to consult with a probate attorney if the examiner touches on the valuation of an estate that you believed would not require the full process.