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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When Do You Need a Probate Lawyer?

If you have recently been named as an executor, you may want to seriously consider hiring a probate lawyer to help you with your daunting task of administering your loved one’s estate. In fact, according to traditional probate advice, hiring an attorney is often one of the first things you should do after you discover you are the executor.

Only in very small, uncomplicated estates should you go without an attorney. If you are unsure, it is best to err on the side of getting professional help. If the following factors apply to your situation, give Biddle Law a call to see how we can help.

Most of the Deceased Person’s Property Must be Transferred Through the Estate

If all or most of your loved one’s property can be transferred without using the probate process, you may be able to go without an attorney. For example, assets like life insurance will already have a named beneficiary, so is not considered part of the estate. It automatically goes to the designated beneficiary without you having to administer the property. If the named beneficiary is the estate, however, involving an attorney is a good idea.

If the deceased person’s property does not have straight-forward beneficiaries or a means to deal with property outside of probate, it is a good idea to involve an attorney. Estates with significant assets can get complicated quickly, and administering large amounts of money or property is difficult on your own.

The Estate Will Not Qualify for “Small Estate” Procedures

In California, estates that are smaller than $150,000 in total can be administered through a streamlined probate process. This process is less burdensome and complicated. You also likely will not have to go to court at all to manage the property.

You still have to go through an affidavit process if you believe you should inherit property from the deceased individual. While this method is straightforward, it can be disastrous if you do not get it right. An attorney can help you develop and use your affidavit to transfer property.

The Estate Includes a Small Business or Complicated Asset

Small businesses make the probate process very involved in many situations. If your loved one owned all or part of a small business, it is a good idea to get an attorney involved. Administering this type of asset may also bring in other areas of the law that you may not have considered on your own as well.

Any asset that requires an appraisal or valuation may need the services of an attorney. You want to get reliable, correct information to administer these potentially very valuable assets, and having a lawyer with experience in these areas will be extremely beneficial.

The Estate Does Not Have Enough Assets to Pay Its Debts

When the estate cannot pay everything that is due, satisfying creditors can become a complicated process. Involve an attorney to help you get the best outcome possible in these types of situations.

Biddle Law can help you administer all kinds of estates—big and small, complex and straightforward. Having someone with experience will help the process run much more smoothly and efficiently. Getting through the process quickly will help you move on with your life. Call today to set up an appointment.


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Biddle Law is located in San Mateo and Belmont and services San Mateo County including San Carlos, Burlingame and Foster City.



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| Phone: 650.532.3470

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