Probate attorneys are highly-educated, trained lawyers who assist clients in matters concerning probate. Probate is a legal process that occurs after a person’s death. If the person who died had a will, the process includes proving the validity of his will and identifying the property the deceased person owned. Probate also includes having property inventoried and appraised as well as paying off the deceased’s taxes and debts. Finally, the probate process includes distributing the property that is left over to the deceased’s heirs, in accordance with his will or based on the laws of the particular jurisdiction.
Often, probate attorneys handle the administrative part of the probate process. Representing the executor of a will or the deceased party’s heirs, a probate attorney may provide legal advice, handle paperwork, and file any motions that are necessary as part of the probate process. He may also represent the heirs or a representative of the heirs if the deceased did not have a will. Essentially, his job is to make sure the probate process is completed in accordance with the jurisdiction’s laws and goes as smoothly as possible.
Sometimes probate attorneys do more than handle the administrative part of the probate process. In some cases, they handle probate litigation as well. For example, a probate lawyer may handle legal disputes over the details of a party’s will or the distribution of his estate. He may also handle legal disputes involving trusts. Sometimes he may even handle legal disputes involving a person who is still alive, such as those involving living wills.
In some cases, a probate attorney may act as the executor of a person’s will. This means he manages the distribution of the deceased party’s assets. He may, for example, oversee the changing of a real estate title to reflect an heir’s name or facilitate the transfer of money or securities to one of the heirs. In most places, a probate attorney who acts as the executor of a will is prohibited from being one of the will’s beneficiaries.
Aspiring probate attorneys typically complete college and then go on to law school. In most places, a person must pass a law exam in order to be licensed to practice law. He may then go on to work as an intern at a probate law firm, which would allow him to learn more about this field. After building his skills and knowledge, he may then go on to work for a probate law firm or open his own practice.