5 Tips for Finding the Right Probate Lawyer

Despite the number of DIY websites offering forms and basic guidance concerning legal matters, it’s important to manage your estate under the guidance of an experienced probate lawyer. However, it’s equally important that you choose an estate planning attorney in Las Vegas with knowledge of your specific legal issues and goals.

What is probate, and how do you choose the right lawyer for your case?

Why You Need a Probate Lawyer (and When You Don’t)

A probate attorney is a legal expert who understands the complexities of estate matters and how the probate process works. Probate is a court proceeding whereby an executor, with guidance from a judge and attorneys, files your will for validation and ensures that your assets are equitably distributed after your death.

In Nevada, an executor has 30 days after a death is confirmed to file the will. If you die intestate, meaning there is no executor or will, the probate court will appoint someone to oversee settling your estate.

Usually, that is the closest living relative or next of kin, but individual states have their own intestate laws and lines of succession.

In Nevada, 100% of the marital estate automatically goes to a surviving spouse, except those portions that are deemed separate property. The division of separate, non-marital property is split equally between the spouse and child, or 1/3 of the estate goes to the surviving spouse and the other 2/3 would be split equally between all children if there is more than one.

If the individual is unmarried when they die, the next in line would be their children. The line of succession in Nevada property law after spouses and children is parents, siblings, and then cousins or the state of Nevada, in that order.

Some people can avoid probate court if their estate is below a certain value. However, large, or complicated estates will be sent to probate court upon your death to let a judge sort it out. Estates can also end up in probate if the will is contested or there are family and legal squabbles over your assets.

One example of a matter that needs to be validated in court is the question of guardianship in Las Vegas or other parts of Nevada. The courts need to know who will be responsible for any minor children, disabled adult children, or other relatives in your legal care, such as parents or grandparents.

Inheritance laws are the same whether potential beneficiaries are blood relatives or adopted children and US citizens or not.

There are other parts of your estate that aren’t covered by Nevada’s intestate laws. These will need to be dispensed with at the time they’re created or in your will if you want to avoid having someone else divvy them up for you.

These assets include:

• Anything protected by a living trust

• Life insurance payouts, which have a beneficiary named when they’re purchased

• Accounts and possessions with a payable-on-death designation, such as bank accounts, vehicles, homes, and 401ks

• Property that’s held under a joint tenancy or community property with a right of survivorship included in the contract or lease agreement

Everything else is up for dispersion under probate laws in Nevada. Any taxes or debts that aren’t automatically discharged with your death will also be settled out of any money from your estate. If there is no money to discharge debts, the court will order the executor, heirs, or probate attorney in Las Vegas to sell your assets to take care of the financial obligations.

As you can see, probate matters can become complicated, especially if there are questions about who gets what or if there’s fighting within the ranks of your family.

Like many states, Nevada has a “small estate” limit. Under our laws, any estate with total assets valued at less than $20,000 isn’t required to enter probate.

However, even if you have an estate that’s small and not very complicated, it still helps to have an estate planning lawyer draw up a will. That will ensure that your last wishes are clear and that everything is handled in a legal manner.

So, what should you look for in an estate planning lawyer?

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Probate Lawyer

You can find a probate lawyer in Las Vegas by getting a recommendation or searching “probate lawyer near me” on the Internet. Estate planning and probate matters are usually handled by the same lawyer.

An estate planning lawyer can be retained by you to create a will and manage the particulars of your estate before your death. Probate lawyers are usually hired by an executor or heir after a death. They can also be appointed by a judge.

Before you retain an attorney, you should use the following tips to get the right fit.

1. Find a lawyer who specializes in your type of legal issue. Transactional probate attorneys handle the administrative side of things. Probate litigators are lawyers who represent parties filing suit against the estate.

When you just need someone to guide you through probate, choose the first type of probate attorney. If you’re contesting the will, hire a litigator.

2. Choose a lawyer with the right experience. Every situation is unique. Do you need a law office that speaks other languages? Do you have multiple properties in other states or countries? Does any portion of your estate involve complications like guardianships, trusts, royalties, or intellectual property rights?

3. How are you paying for legal services? Some clients with simple legal matters to address prefer to pay a flat fee for a la carte services. Others may need to hire a lawyer on retainer. Which you choose depends upon your budget, estate, and legal requirements.

4. Ask about availability. A busy lawyer is usually a sign of a good lawyer, but you need someone who’s going to be there when you need them. If your case has the potential to be long and involve, make sure you choose a lawyer who has time to properly represent your interests.

5. Qualifications. No matter how good their recommendations or Yelp reviews are, you should still investigate any lawyer before you hire them to handle your case.

• What other certifications or areas of specialty do they have to their credit?

• Have they been practicing long?

• Are they a member in good standing of the Nevada Bar Association? What about other states and countries where you hold property or other assets?

Your lawyer should also be able to provide references from real clients and point to their experience with your specific legal issues.

Consult With a Licensed Probate Lawyer in Las Vegas Today

You wouldn’t choose a brain surgeon to treat a broken leg, so you shouldn’t hire a general practitioner or personal injury lawyer to handle estate matters. A probate lawyer is a licensed professional whose area of expertise extends to matters like wills, guardianship, and other estate planning responsibilities.

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