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What Exactly Is a Probate Lawyer?

What Exactly Is a Probate Lawyer? Tennessee probate lawyers represent the personal representative of an estate when someone dies. The personal representative is either someone who is named in the decedent’s will or someone who is appointed by the local court. While there are a lot of articles about how to “avoid” probate, the truth is, probate happens no matter what. What you want to avoid, when possible, is probate litigation, or any problems that can arise during the probate process.

This is where having an experienced probate lawyer to help you can make all the difference. Your Chattanooga probate lawyer will perform numerous tasks that help everyone get the assets and funds they deserve, so families can focus on remembering their loved ones.

Duties of a probate lawyer

Often, the family members will approach the lawyer after a person dies. If they do have their loved one’s will, the lawyer will clarify who was named executor. Usually, a testator (the person who prepares a will) leaves the original of the will the lawyer who drafted the will or in the testator’s safe deposit box.

If the loved one didn’t prepare a will, the probate lawyer will explain how a relative (usually a spouse, adult child, or a parent of a minor child) can be appointed as administrator.

The probate lawyer will also:

  • Arrange for the notice of the decedent’s death to be published – usually in a local paper or local bar association publication.
  • Respond to any challenges:
    • Often, children and family members who were excluded or thought they should have gotten more may challenge the validity of the will. Common challenge arguments are that the testator lacked testamentary capacity, that the will wasn’t properly signed, or that someone used undue influence to force the testator to prepare a different will than was expected.
    • Challenges can also include showing that there is a later will or a codicil/amendment to the will.
    • Probate lawyers work with the personal representative to show that the original will submitted to the court should be honored.
  • Arrange for documents so the personal representative can open a bank account and collect the assets.
  • Identify of all assets that pass through probate – whether there was a will or not. These typically include all the testator’s assets (personal and business) unless they were excluded in some way.
  • Identify the assets which should pass to others without the need for probate. These are the excluded assets. They include items such as life insurance proceeds payable to a specific beneficiary or assets that were placed into a trust.
  • Work with the personal representative to pay any taxes and creditors that are due.
  • Identify the heirs, either through the will or through the state intestate laws.
  • Prepare an accounting of all the assets that came in, what was paid, and what the heirs will receive.
  • Seek approval to distribute the assets.
  • Work with the personal representative to distribute the assets to the right people in the proper amounts.

Probate attorneys may also handle any claims by creditors. They can also handle any claims that the personal representative isn’t doing his/her job correctly.

At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our probate lawyers understand that when someone dies, you want to focus on honoring your loved one. We honor your loved one by working with your personal representative to fulfill his/her directions as set forth in the will. For strong guidance during this difficult time, please call us at 423-756-7923  or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. Our lawyers represent families in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and throughout Tennessee.