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Understanding Probate

When an individual dies leaving a will, the legal process that takes place is called probate. Probate refers to how an estate is administered and processed through the legal system.

Probate Lawyers

The probate process can be confusing and overwhelming considering the circumstances. A Katy probate lawyer will help with the management of the decedent’s estate, any trusts he or she may have as well as any guardianships or conservatorships in question.

Probate cases often become very detailed and a probate lawyer will help ensure the rights of the deceased are fully protected. Attorneys also have the sensitivity to family dynamics and are knowledgeable in common problems with probate cases.

What is probate?

Probate is the process through which assets from a deceased person’s estate are transferred to beneficiaries, such as spouses, children, and other loved ones. In plain terms, reading a person’s will and distributing the items contained in it is part of the probate process. In some states, probate courts also handle matters related to guardianships and conservatorships of children or disabled adults.

What happens if you don’t do probate?

Without an estate plan in place, the probate process will often still go forward, but it can get messier. Someone who dies without a will in place will often have their assets given to any survivors, even if that would have gone against their wishes. Court battles can unfold among relatives who feel like they deserve more.

How long does probate take?

In a simple case where there are no disputes, and the deceased had a strong plan in place, the probate process of distributing assets and paying off debts may only take a few months to complete. If someone challenges the will or any other part of the estate distribution, it can take much longer.

How can you avoid probate?

If you want your beneficiaries to avoid the hassle of probate, you have several options. You can make sure to name beneficiaries of bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. You could also move your assets to a living trust, which will allow you to access them while you are still alive but will automatically pass to your beneficiaries upon your death.

How an Attorney Can Help

An attorney can often resolve your particular legal issue faster and better than trying to do it alone. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, while avoiding costly mistakes or procedural errors. You should seek out an attorney whose practice focuses on the area of law most relevant to your issue.

How to Prepare for Your Initial Consultation

Prepare for your consultation by writing down notes of your understanding of the case, jot down questions and concerns for the attorney, and gather your documents. Remember that you are trying to get a sense of whether the attorney has your trust and can help you address your legal issues. Questions should include how the attorney intends to resolve your issue, how many years he/she has been practicing law and specifically practicing in your area, as well as how many cases similar to yours the attorney has handled. It can also be helpful to broach the subject of fees so that you understand the likely cost and structure of your representation by a specific attorney and/or legal team.

How much does it cost to hire an attorney?

In general, how much an attorney costs will often depend on these four factors: billing method and pricing structure, type of legal work performed, law firm prestige, and attorney experience. Depending on the legal issue you are facing, an attorney may bill you by the hour, settle on a flat fee, or enter into a contingency fee agreement. The type of legal work you need help with will also play a role in cost incurred.

Common legal terms explained

Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.

Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.

Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.

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