Top Questions to Ask a Probate Attorney
The passing of a loved one is difficult to process, and the thought of putting their legal and financial affairs in order during this time can make things more overwhelming.
However, understanding how probate works and finding a qualified Charleston probate attorney can ease the process and, ultimately, help you honor your loved one’s wishes.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
Probate lawyers assist executors or beneficiaries of an estate as they go through probate. This court-supervised proceeding authenticates a deceased person’s will and transfers the administration of the estate assets he or she owned to the rightful beneficiaries.
Throughout the process, a probate law attorney may assist with finding and inventorying estate assets, paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing estate properties to beneficiaries according to the will.
Authenticating and transferring the administration of estate assets can be laborious, long, time-consuming, and even expensive, so working with a probate attorney in Charleston, SC, can help you save time and money. This process is even more difficult if the decedent did not leave a will. Further complications include beneficiaries or debtors challenging the will.
As you start looking for an estate probate attorney, here are some essential questions to ask to ensure you’ve found the right lawyer for your unique situation and needs.
Have You Handled Cases Similar to Mine?
Like in other areas of law, experience is important in the probate field. A case may be specific to a particular family and the properties to be distributed. Still, issues that commonly arise in similar probates of wills and estates can serve as learning experiences.
A seasoned probate law attorney is often aware of the potential problems that may surface when authenticating and analyzing a will.
While the results of the cases they handled in the past do not guarantee a positive outcome, their experience in similar cases puts them in a better position to steer clear of avoidable mistakes and settle your loved one’s estate as efficiently as possible.
How Do You Charge for Your Services?
Lawyers do not usually disclose their fees on websites, so asking your potential Charleston probate attorney about this early on can help you determine whether they’re a good fit for your needs. This also saves you from unexpected expenses and unpleasant surprises after a grueling probate process.
With that said, you’ll also want to learn what other fees you should expect and how you will be charged. Some may ask for a flat fee, while others charge clients for each hour they work on a case.
How Long Will Probate Take?
Since it can take a long time for wills to be validated and administered, raising this question can help you set your expectations. However, know that your probate attorney in Charleston, SC, cannot give you a definite timeline.
The length of the probate process depends on factors like the size and complexity of the estate to be distributed. For example, smaller estates involving cash and a family home will be relatively simpler to process and may take only a few months. On the other hand, larger estates involving business assets can take longer to distribute properly.
With all of that said, what an experienced estate probate attorney can do is give you an idea of how long the entire process will take. They can also keep you updated with developments affecting your estimated timeline so you can plan accordingly.
Will I Be Able to Reach You Easily?
Some lawyers work on cases with little to no administrative support. As a result, they end up handling everything in and around the office themselves: from paperwork and scheduling client meetings to returning phone calls and connecting with their clients. With all these tasks on their plate, they may not be as responsive as clients need them to be.
When going through a complex matter like probate litigation, the last thing you need is to work with someone you cannot get a hold of. Here are some questions you can ask the Charleston probate attorney you’re considering to ensure you’ll get the support you need when you need it:
- Do you have a support staff?
- How quickly can I expect your firm to reply to my emails or messages?
- How often will I be updated on the probate’s developments?
Do You Need Anything from Me?
While your probate attorney can assist you with the legal matters, you also have a crucial part to play in speeding up the process. This is why it’s a good idea to ask your lawyer what they need from you.
The required documents may differ from case to case, but the following are the fundamental files needed in most cases:
- The decedent’s death certificate.
- The original copy of his or her last will or the secondary copy if the original has already been submitted to the probate court.
- The names and addresses of all the beneficiaries.
- Copies of property deeds owned by the decedent.
- Copies of bank accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policies, and other recent financial statements of the decedent.
- Copies of financial obligations owed by the decedent.
- Other documents that may have already been submitted to the probate court.
Not having all the documentation necessary for the court proceeding can cause delays or issues, so it’s best to be proactive in assisting your probate attorney with what he or she might need from you.
Let Experienced Attorneys Take the Stress Out of the Probate Settlement Process
Dealing with legal issues is never easy, and when the passing of a loved one is added to the mix, conflicts can quickly arise and make the whole process even more stressful. A seasoned probate attorney will be able to assist you in your probate settlement, but you must have the right legal professional by your side to ensure your needs will be met.
On that note, feel free to ask the questions above before hiring a lawyer to oversee the probate process for you. This helps ensure you’ve found a lawyer you know you can rely on to represent your case.
If you are looking for a dedicated probate attorney in Charleston, SC, to guide you through your upcoming proceedings, the Wiles Law team is here for you. Our attorneys and staff offer constant communication and tailored services to make the probate settlement process easier for everyone involved.
Contact us today to take the next step. We look forward to helping you honor your loved one’s wishes and, ultimately, ensure their assets go to their desired beneficiaries.