Why Would You Need a Probate Attorney

While it’s natural to want to handle your legal affairs or those of a deceased loved one personally, navigating the intricacies of probate law can be a monumental challenge that requires the experience and expertise of a skilled professional. This is where the invaluable role of a probate attorney comes into play.


Below, we unravel the intricacies of probate law and explore the compelling reasons why would you need a probate attorney. From assisting with the probate process to handling disputes amongst heirs, a skilled professional can guide you in avoiding costly pitfalls jeopardizing your financial security. By the end of this piece, you will know what to expect from a probate attorney so you can make informed decisions for your assets.


Whether you’re facing estate administration, contesting a will, or simply seeking clarity on the process, this blog is your go-to resource for all things probate law, trust administration and wealth preservation.


What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process after an individual’s death to ensure that their assets and properties are appropriately distributed according to their last will. The process typically includes:


  • The appointment of a personal representative or executor.
  • Payment of debts and taxes.
  • The distribution of inheritance to beneficiaries or heirs.


The Charleston SC probate court oversees this process to ensure it is done efficiently and according to the law. 


What to Expect From a Probate Attorney

The loss of a loved one is an immensely challenging and overwhelming time for any family. This emotional turmoil is further compounded when the intricate tasks of administering the deceased’s estate come into play. Across the complexities of estate administration, a skilled probate attorney can be an indispensable ally for grieving families. 


So why would you need a probate attorney? Let’s delve deeper into the multitude of reasons:


Ensuring the Legality of the Will and Proper Distribution of Assets

Crafting and executing a legally valid will is crucial in ensuring that the deceased’s estate is distributed correctly. A probate attorney can help ensure that the will conforms to all relevant laws and procedures, eliminating any ambiguities or uncertainties related to asset distribution and wealth preservation. This is essential in avoiding potential legal disputes and challenges leading to prolonged and costly Charleston SC probate court battles.


Speeding Up the Probate Process

Probate proceedings can be complex and time-consuming, sometimes taking months or even years to settle. However, hiring an experienced attorney can help expedite the entire process. Their expertise in navigating the judicial system and overcoming unexpected hurdles ensures a smoother and faster settlement for the estate.


Resolving Disputes Among Beneficiaries 

It is all too common for family disputes and disagreements among beneficiaries to arise during estate administration. These situations can quickly escalate into legal battles and cause irreparable damage to familial relationships. In such cases, a probate attorney can mediate between the parties, offering impartial advice on resolving disputes and maintaining family harmony.


Offering Expert Advice in Tax and Financial Matters

Managing an estate involves dealing with various tax and financial matters, such as filing estate taxes, evaluating assets and paying off outstanding debts. Navigating this complex territory alone can be highly intimidating and risky. A probate lawyer has the financial expertise to ensure that all tax and financial obligations are met, protecting the estate from potential penalties or financial setbacks.


Reducing Stress for Grieving Family Members

Losing a loved one is a challenging and emotional phase of life. During this time, family members need time and space to process their loss. However, managing the intricacies of estate administration can be inherently stressful and time-consuming. 


By hiring a probate attorney, you can entrust a skilled and compassionate professional to handle the legal and financial complexities of the estate. This can help to ease the burden on your shoulders, allowing you to find solace in your time of mourning.


Probate vs Non-Probate Assets

Probate and non-probate assets are the two primary categories of property that may be included in an individual’s estate. Understanding the distinction between these two is essential to ensure proper asset ownership and beneficiary designation.


Probate Assets

Probate assets are owned solely by the deceased person at the time of their death and must go through the probate process. The probate process is a legal procedure conducted by the relevant court, through which a deceased person’s estate is administered, and their assets are transferred to the intended beneficiaries under their last will. 


If the deceased person does not have a valid will, the Charleston SC probate court will distribute probate assets according to the intestacy laws of the person’s residence.



  • Real estate solely owned by the deceased person.
  • Personal property such as vehicles, jewelry and furniture.
  • Bank accounts solely in the dead person’s name.
  • Stocks, bonds, and other investment accounts exclusively owned by the deceased.


Non-Probate Assets

Non-probate assets bypass the probate process and are automatically transferred to the designated beneficiaries upon the owner’s death. These assets are not subject to probate because they are either jointly owned between two or more individuals or include a beneficiary designation that assigns a specific recipient upon the owner’s death.



  • Jointly owned real estate with rights of survivorship.
  • Jointly owned bank accounts with rights of survivorship or pay-on-death (POD) designations.
  • Retirement accounts include IRAs, 401(k)s or other employer-sponsored plans with designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries.
  • Assets held in a revocable living trust with named beneficiaries.


Importance of Proper Asset Ownership

Proper asset ownership and beneficiary designation are crucial to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes and can also help your heirs avoid probate. 


Moreover, understanding the importance of probate and non-probate assets in estate planning can help you minimize the time and cost of administering your estate. Structuring your investments to avoid probate can save your beneficiaries from the lengthy and often expensive legal process for distributing probate assets.


How Estate Planning Avoids Probate

Estate planning refers to organizing a person’s assets so that their management and disposal are well taken care of in case of incapacity or death. This involves outlining and documenting how properties, investments and personal belongings should be distributed to the intended beneficiaries. 


Here are some estate planning tools that can help you avoid probate:


Last Will and Testament

A will is a legal document specifying your instructions for distributing your assets after you pass. Having a properly executed will is crucial as it allows you to name an executor who will ensure that your wishes are carried out. However, having a will doesn’t always avoid probate. To effectively deal with this, it is essential to establish other estate planning strategies.


Living Trusts

Living trusts are a way to transfer ownership of your assets to a separate entity – the trust – while you are still alive. Once you pass, the assets in the trust are distributed to the beneficiaries you have designated by a trustee, which helps bypass the probate process. 


Trusts provide flexibility and control, allowing you to manage the assets within the trust and make changes as needed. They also offer privacy, as trust assets are not subject to the public probate process.


Joint Ownership of Property

Joint ownership of property can be established with the right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety. This type of ownership structure automatically transfers the ownership of the property to the surviving owner upon the other owner’s death without requiring probate. 


Many married couples and family members choose this method to ensure seamless and immediate property transfer, providing their loved ones peace of mind and financial stability during a challenging time.


Payable-on-Death Accounts

Payable-on-death (POD) accounts enable you to designate beneficiaries to receive funds from your bank and investment accounts without going through court. 


When you pass, the designated beneficiaries only need proof of death and identification to claim the funds. POD accounts offer simplicity and flexibility, allowing you to retain control of your assets while you’re alive and make changes to beneficiaries as needed.


Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance Policies with Designated Beneficiaries

Designating beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies ensures that, upon your death, the funds are paid directly to your heirs without going through probate. This not only provides immediate financial support to your loved ones but also ensures legal fees and time-consuming Charleston probate court proceedings do not unnecessarily deplete assets. 

Maintaining beneficiary information and periodically reviewing it is essential for effectively distributing these assets.


Transfer-on-Death Deeds for Real Estate

Transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds are legal documents allowing you to name a beneficiary who will automatically receive your real estate property upon death. This means you can avoid the sometimes lengthy and costly probate court process. 


The transfer of ownership only takes effect after you pass, so you will still retain complete control over your property while you are alive. You can also change the beneficiary designation at any time during your lifetime. 


Using a TOD deed is an efficient and cost-effective way to transfer your property assets to your loved ones while minimizing the legal complexities that often come with estate planning.


Secure Your Family’s Future with Wiles Law’s Expert Probate Services

Understanding what to expect from a probate attorney is essential in navigating the complex and often emotional process at Charleston probate court. Hiring a skilled and experienced professional specializing in trust administration and wealth preservation can make all the difference in ensuring a smooth and efficient transfer of assets to your loved ones.


At Wiles Law Firm, we pride ourselves on offering attentive, compassionate and professional representation for all estate and probate matters. Our seasoned team is dedicated to protecting your family’s rights and helping you navigate the delicate process efficiently. With our extensive knowledge and experience in Charleston probate court, you can be confident that your estate will be in the best hands.


Don’t leave your family’s future to chance. Contact Wiles Law Firm today and let us help guide you effortlessly through the probate, trust administration and estate planning process.