Do I Need to Hire a Probate Attorney in Las Vegas?
The first step in knowing whether you need a probate attorney is understanding the probate process. Probate occurs when a loved one has passed away. It is a court-led process that proves the will, pays off creditors, calculates all assets and property, and pays any beneficiaries. It settles their estate and allows all leftover assets to be distributed to family and friends.
While that may seem simple, there are a lot of steps and the process can be timely and costly. There are several questions you can ask yourself that will help you decide if you should hire a probate attorney in Las Vegas.
Do you need to understand the probate process?
An attorney can help you understand the key terms and the process of probate in Las Vegas. There are several steps to probate including validating a will if there is one, paying creditors, valuing the estate, and paying any beneficiaries.
The process can be filled with legalese and judges and lawyers speaking quickly about probate. Having an advocate on your side to help you walk through everything can be extremely helpful.
What is your relationship to the decedent?
The decedent is the person who has passed away. You may be mentioned in the will if you are a close family member or friend. A lawyer can help you if you think you have an interest in the estate but you are not mentioned in the will.
This usually happens if the decedent owed you money and you would like to try and get some of it back. It can also happen if you think you have an interest in any property that the decedent owned.
Are you the personal representative of the decedent?
The personal representative is the person who is in charge of settling the estate. Many people specifically mention who they would like to be the executor of their estate in their will. The court will appoint an administrator to be the personal representative in some circumstances.
Mainly, if there is no will or if the person named as the executor in the will is unable to perform the duties. You will have many duties as the personal representative and a lawyer can make sure you can do them all easily.
Are there ways to avoid probate?
Not all estates have to go through the probate process. A lawyer can help explain different situations where it isn’t needed.
One main way to avoid probate is in the estate planning process before death.
If the decedent created a trust, then the assets in the trust will not need to go through the process. Similarly, probate is not needed for any accounts that already have named beneficiaries. This is common with 401(k)s and other retirement funds.
What is the size of the estate?
If you can’t outright avoid probate, look at the size of the estate. Nevada has different procedures for smaller and less complicated estates.
Generally, a person can petition the court to use one of these simplified procedures rather than going through the whole probate process. This is usually done by a close family member like a spouse or a child with the help of a probate attorney.
Is there a will?
The probate process will be a lot easier if there is a clear will that specifically addresses the decedent’s wishes. The will may be vague or there could be a dispute as to whether the will is the actual last wishes of the person who has passed. Either of these situations could use the help of a trained attorney.
If there isn’t a will, be prepared for it to get complicated. The court will need to appoint a personal representative and will divide property according to state law. A lawyer can walk you through this process too.
Is there a possible conflict?
Probate proceedings can create conflict. Sometimes a will is not clear about the decedent’s wishes. It gets even more complicated when there isn’t a will or if someone thinks that the will being presented is not valid. These disputes can ruin relationships and tear apart families. In these cases, it is almost always best to hire an attorney.
Are their family complications?
What should you do if the decedent is your parent but they recently remarried? What if the new spouse has children of their own? What about estranged family members?
Again, the person’s wishes should be specified if there is a will. However, remarriages and step-children can make other family members doubt the validity of the will and wonder if it was made under duress. If you think this may have happened, a lawyer can help you petition the court to question the validity of the will.
Will you need to create any contracts?
There may be a need to create a legal document during the probate process. Hiring a lawyer will make this much easier. For example, one child may want to sell their interest in the property they inherited if the decedent left it to multiple children.
An attorney can help draft the sales agreement between the siblings and make sure that all property transfers and deeds are updated with the correct information.
Learn more about the steps to probate in Nevada
Do you need to go to court?
Anytime you may need to appear before a judge in probate court is a good time to hire a lawyer. There are many reasons this could happen. The first is if there is no will and the court decides to appoint you as the personal representative.
It is also helpful to have representation if there is a will but you think it may not be valid. An attorney will also advocate for you if you have a dispute or conflict with the will or the personal representative.
How simple do you want it to be?
A lawyer can do as much or as little work for you as you want them too. You can decide that you would prefer to sit back and have them handle most of the work. You can also be involved and ask them to walk you step-by-step through the process.
Either way, it will be a more simple process for you if you have an advocate working on your behalf throughout the probate process.
Need help with Probate?
If you have more questions and need more information on probate, schedule a free consultation with our probate attorneys in Las Vegas.