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What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

Top view of probate law book with gavel on white background. Law concept.

In Arizona, navigating the process of settling a deceased person's estate can often lead to legal confusion and disputes among beneficiaries. However, with the help of an experienced probate lawyer, you can ensure that these disputes are effectively resolved and that you remain in compliance with Arizona estate laws.

A probate lawyer is a state-licensed attorney who adeptly manages a deceased person's estate and financial affairs in accordance with their wishes. By entrusting your probate matters to a skilled professional, you can navigate the legal process with confidence and ensure a smooth administration of the estate.

What are the key responsibilities of probate lawyers?

The responsibilities of a probate lawyer can vary, but they generally include the following:

Asset identification and security

Upon a person's death, probate lawyers meticulously work to locate and inventory all assets belonging to the deceased. These range from tangible property (e.g., real estate, vehicles, and personal belongings) to intangible assets (e.g., bank accounts, stocks, and life insurance policies).

They also work to protect and preserve these assets throughout the probate process. This involves securing real estate, safeguarding valuables, and managing financial accounts to prevent unauthorized access or loss.

Financial management

Probate lawyers oversee the identification and valuation of an estate's assets. They ensure the payment of decedents' debts and taxes and manage the distribution of the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries. This involves a detailed process of collecting and appraising a deceased person's property while also addressing any outstanding financial obligations.

Additionally, probate lawyers work closely with executors and beneficiaries to create a transparent and efficient plan for asset distribution. They also consider the legal requirements and the wishes of the deceased as outlined in their will.

Legal documentation and filings

Probate lawyers ensure that all necessary paperwork is accurately prepared and submitted within the required deadlines to the probate court. This process typically involves:

  • Drafting and filing petitions to open and close probate proceedings.
  • Preparing and submitting an inventory of the deceased's assets.
  • Handling the filing of final tax returns.
  • Submitting applications for asset distribution to beneficiaries.

Tax affairs

Probate attorneys ensure compliance with both state and federal tax laws. They assist in preparing and filing a deceased's final income tax returns and any necessary estate tax returns. This involves:

  • Identifying and valuing the estate's assets.
  • Calculating any owed taxes.
  • Taking advantage of available deductions and credits to minimize the estate's tax liability.

Final disbursements

After settling all debts and obligations, probate lawyers oversee the final distribution of assets to the designated beneficiaries. This process typically involves settling the estate's debts and taxes and ensuring all financial obligations are met in accordance with the law.

Once these obligations are cleared, a probate attorney obtains the court's approval for a distribution plan of the remaining assets. They also oversee the transfer of assets. Throughout this process, they ensure that all actions comply with legal standards and that the interests of the beneficiaries are safeguarded.

What is the difference between a probate lawyer and an estate attorney?

Estate planning attorneys wear many hats and are known by various titles, including estate attorney, probate attorney, trust attorney, and trust litigation attorney. Despite the variety in names, they handle all matters related to wills, trusts, estates, and inheritance disputes. This includes everything from litigation and pre-litigation to mediation and case settlements.

Why do I need a probate lawyer?

The probate process involves specific legal and financial requirements. An experienced probate lawyer at Brown & Jensen can help guide you through the process. If you have questions or need assistance with probate matters, we're here to help. Contact us online or call one of our Arizona law offices for a free consultation.

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