Should I Hire an Attorney to Probate an Estate?

Your loved one gave you the gift of a comprehensive estate plan which included a Last Will & Testament.

That person has unfortunately died. You are named Personal Representative (PR) which is Maryland’s term for an executor. Now what?

Many PRs hire an estate attorney to help guide them through the probate process.

However, not everyone understands the necessity to retain an attorney who specializes in this unique and at times complex area of law.

The truth is that any lawyer that is licensed to practice law Maryland can assist you. If your friend is a bankruptcy attorney,  the questions become should the attorney who mostly practices in another area of the law best represent you and even more importantly should they?

I often say to my clients that my internist was not my surgeon when I needed surgery and my surgeon is not my primary care physician. They each have their own area of specialization. It is my opinion, that this specialization also exists for attorneys.

A probate or an estate attorney is one who practices in this area on a regular basis. Another attorney who mostly practices in say bankruptcy law may know a little about the probate process, but most likely will not know all the specifics that are necessary to provide representation in a practical, timely and cost-effective manner.

There are often numerous questions all of which are important.

  • What does the decedent’s Last Will and Testament really mean?
  • What papers must be completed to open the estate?
  • Does the PR need a bond?
  • What assets come into the estate and what assets pass outside of probate?
  • Is the estate responsible for the payment of taxes?
  • Should all debt that survives the decedent be paid and are there different classes of debt that take priority for payment?
  • Who is inheriting and when do they do so?
  • These are just some of the questions that must be answered through the probate process.

The first step is the realization you need help to navigate everything that occurs in and through the probate process.

Here are some other benefits in retaining an attorney that specializes in probate:

1. When you retain a probate attorney, they have the required knowledge and experience to provide you with the dedication, time and service you deserve.

They can answer all of the questions raised above any others you may have.

2. The Probate Attorney can help you navigate tax and Trust matters.

Frequently an estate will include the necessity to pay income taxes and at times inheritance and even state and federal estate tax.  If the Decedent’s Will creates a Trust the probate attorney is aware of what steps must be undertaken.

The experienced probate attorney is normally well versed in the topics and helps guide the PR to ensure all appropriate taxes are paid, Trusts established etc. This also helps prevent further personal liability for the PR.

3. The Probate Attorney can prevent personal liability, also referred to as a breach of fiduciary duty.

The PR has the primary responsibility to make certain decisions. At times these decisions require prior Orphans’ Court approval.

If the PR  acts before obtaining the Court’s permission to do so, then he or she could become personally liable. An experienced probate attorney knows exactly what you can and cannot do throughout this process.

If you have additional questions about probate, please contact me at 443-901-1333. Schedule a consultation »

Planning ahead is a gift to your loved ones!