Estate Planning / Probate Lawyer

Get help managing the legal hurdles of a family estate.

Contact Lawyer One

If you or a loved one has a related case, please fill out the form below. If you wish to call our number is 1.800.391.0227.

Schedule your free consultation now
Free Consultation. Call Us 24/7.

Estate Planning / Probate

Losing a loved one is traumatizing enough. At the time of death, survivors have to focus on not only planning the memorial/funeral services, but also the dividing of assets. Often times the spouse or surviving family members will have to delegate who gains access to property, vehicles, clothing jewelry, and any items of the deceased. Items of extreme value often take the most time to delegate as they are the most sought after by other family members.

This can lead to a huge battle. Family members will get angry because they did not get the item they wanted or did not get anything at all. It is important to have an estate plan in order (i.e. some sort of will) for protection against these types of battles. If a will is not in place, a probate court will take the case and decide which family member receives which item. Probate court rules in accordance with state law.

Usually, the first step is to determine whether there is some sort of will intact. If there is a will intact then it comes down to delegating property and items to the appropriate parties listed. Often times there can still be a legal fight. Family members can try to contest that the deceased did not want actions to be taken in this manner or that the deceased family member was not in the right state of mind at the time of the executing of the will. In this case, it is up to our legal team to build a case to prove that the deceased was in fact of sound mind at the time of the execution of the will. If there were no discrepancies and evidence is clearly outlined, this is usually a swift process.

Next Steps

If there is no will, the case moves onto the probate court. When the case moves to probate court, there are typically six steps to this process:

  • File a petition

    A petition needs to be filed within the state and there must be a legal executor determined. The legal executor will be in charge of ensuring that the deceased’s wishes in the will (if any) are handled accordingly. The legal executor represents and speaks on behalf of the family. If the deceased did not appoint a legal executor before passing, the court will appoint a legal executor to represent the deceased. A death certificate must be included in this process. When the legal executor is determined, the case will be approved to move forward to probate court where items will be delegated accordingly.
  • Notify all appropriate parties

    The legal executor and sometimes the deceased family must notify any listed beneficiaries in the will, as well as any creditors. This process varies state by state.
  • Value and assess all assets

    Each asset listed in the will along with any financial assets must be assessed for value by the family, accordingly. This can be anything from bonds, insurance policies in the deceased’s name, bank accounts, or any items such as jewelry, artwork, etc.
  • Pay off any debts

    Any debts or monies owed must be paid off on behalf of the deceased before moving forward in the estate planning process. The family must include any credit card debts, delayed rent or mortgage payments, taxes, as well as filing a final tax return for the deceased. This process might include some extensive research.
  • Distribution

    Once all items are assessed and any debts are paid, the family is able to distribute items accordingly to any beneficiaries of the deceased, as listed in the will or delegated by the court.
Use Form or Call 1.800.391.0227

Free Consultation. Call Us 24/7.

If you or a loved one has a related case, please fill out the form below to schedule a call.

Schedule your free consultation now

You may have seen us mentioned in ...

Common Estate Planning Issues

In the process of estate planning, planning ahead is essential. There are many unexpected issues and concerns that may arise if not planned for and avoided before the process is started.

Common issues can be:

  • Disagreements amongst loved ones

    Losing a loved one comes with stress and hardships, emotionally. It is the hope that family members will handle the situation gracefully, but oftentimes, this is not the case. In the process of estate planning, family politics and disagreements can often come to the surface. Certain beneficiaries may not agree with specific items they were gifted from the deceased or battle for increased finances. Family personalities must be taken into account and communicated to the legal executor so that these issues can be planned for and handled accordingly.
  • Protection of all assets

    Not everyone makes the best decisions. It is often in the best interest of the deceased’s family to create a trust to protect the assets. Sometimes, family members’ poor choices can affect the safety of the assets if not planned correctly. For example, if a couple suffers a divorce or goes into large debt, this can strip away what was left to them by the deceased. It is important to prepare for this and protect the assets of your loved one.
  • Probate court complications

    If a case is moved to the probate court, it is important to have everything outlined accordingly so that items and finances do not get held up in probate court. One must also prepare for court filing fees, along with any privacy issues to avoid long wait periods. If a trust is in place, this will be helpful to help move the process along more swiftly.


  • Fees

    It is highly recommended to handle any legal fees while still living, not only to avoid higher fees but also to ensure that the estate planning process is handled how you see fit. This also helps to avoid legal fees in the event that there is family disruption over any of the assets distributed.
  • Failure to appoint a backup executor

    It is highly advised to have a backup legal executor to represent the family if needed. This will prevent the possibility of any family members having to go to court.
  • Conditional beneficiaries

    Creating conditional beneficiaries is extremely helpful in the unfortunate event that an immediate family member suddenly passes away. Usually, a conditional beneficiary is a parent, sibling, or child. If immediate family members are not an option, one can also appoint a distant relative or even a favorite charity as the conditional beneficiary.
  • Failure to update appointed beneficiaries

    Often, relationships change throughout the years. People that you had originally appointed as a beneficiary may not be the people you want to keep as a beneficiary in the coming years. It is important to go through and ensure that your listed beneficiaries are updated to prevent any issues in the future.
  • Failure to create a join account

    Creating a joint account is a helpful way to distribute any assets to the joint account owner. This takes any legal planning stress off of the table but does require the case to move to probate court upon a loved one’s passing.
  • Failure to create an estate plan

    It is extremely important to have a clear plan intact in the event of something unexpected happening. We can never plan for what each day will bring so it is important to ensure that trusted individuals are in place to handle things should an emergency occur.
Estate Planning or Probate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why do I need to create an Estate Plan while I’m still alive?
Creating an estate plan while still alive will help to avoid any family disruption. Seeking an estate planning attorney assists in avoiding probate and helps to have a mediator to deal with any possible family outcry. This comes in especially useful in the division of the deceased’s assets. If clearly outlined in a will, an estate attorney can ensure that all items and finances are distributed to the proper parties, accordingly. There have been many horror stories of families losing a loved one who failed to have an estate plan. Confiding in an estate attorney helps to avoid a waste of time, possibly money, and helps to create a clear direction.
Who should I appoint as my Trustee?
A trustee is usually a trusted business professional or trusted family member. Some people will list a son or daughter as their trustee, or a sibling. Often, people will appoint themselves as trustee to have further control over their assets. In the event you choose to be a self-appointed trustee, it is important to have a successor trustee appointed, in order to have someone to look after your assets if you are no longer living.
What can I put into a Living Trust?
Tangible items such as property can be placed in a living trust. Insurance policies are usually not eligible to be placed in a trust. Financial gifts such as money for loved ones can be placed in a trust as long as it is not part of a policy.
What is the difference between a Trust vs. a Will?
A will is what helps to distribute your assets, a trust is what helps manage your assets. The will can be thought of as an instructional for how you want everything distributed upon your passing. The trust is in place both when you are living and upon your passing. It is managed throughout your life either by you or someone you have appointed to be in charge of your trust.
Should I have a Trust and a Will?
It is definitely encouraged to have a trust, as well as a will. The will can serve as protection for anything that is left out of the trust. This is usually called a “pour-over will.” Having a pour-over will ensures that your assets are always protected.
How do I have a Trust created?
Creating a trust is done through the state. You will need to have a notary sign your forms, and appoint a trustee, along with the items or finances you would like included in your trust. Once you transfer ownership, the trust will be functional and you will be able to manage it throughout your lifetime.
Lauren Testimonial
Bill Testimonial
Tom Testimonial
Edith Testimonial
Beth Testimonial

Latest Videos

View All Videos ...
Call Us Book Appointment Text Us