Woman sitting at a coffee shop table: six questions to ask a probate attorney

After the loss of a loved one, hiring the right attorney is essential for handling the process of estate administration. Without the experience of a professional to guide you during this process, several issues can present themselves. An experienced attorney can help protect your decedent’s assets from:

  • Being pillaged: This is when property is appropriated without the consent of the owner, or in this case, the consent of the will executor.
  • Wasteful dissipation: This is also known as asset dissipation. Simply, it is intentionally wasting money. The goal is to spend as much as possible so that when it’s time for the court to divide assets, there isn’t much to work with. This may leave one family member with less than they deserve.
  • Being frozen: The process of preventing objects owned by your loved one from being sold or traded because they have been locked by someone else that is owed money.

As you begin interviewing attorneys, don’t make the mistake of hiring someone based simply on a recommendation. Yes, recommendations from family and friends are great places to start. However, it is your responsibility to ask the right questions during interviews to help ensure that you find the best probate attorney for your specific case and budget. To help you start the process on the right foot, read on for six questions to ask a probate attorney.

At the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC, we understand that losing a loved one is an emotional and often heartbreaking experience. In addition to the grief that you may be experiencing, the estate administration process can be a huge task to undertake. If your loved one lived in Illinois or owned real estate in Illinois, our experienced attorneys can help make this process as stress-free as possible. Contact us today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

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#1 What is the focus area in your practice?

A lot can go wrong when it comes to probate and estate administration, including a decedent’s assets being heisted, pillaged, squandered, or frozen. For that reason, specialization in probate handling is the No. 1 thing to look for in your attorney. Remember, while estate planning experience is somewhat related, estate planning vs estate administration are two things that are entirely different processes.

You may very well already have an excellent estate planning attorney, but that experience alone won’t be enough to execute an estate plan or navigate Illinois intestacy laws. This question quickly helps you eliminate the chances of choosing a professional who very well may be clueless about handling cases like your own.

#2 Have you executed a will before?

It may be hard to believe, but many attorneys have little to no experience in will administration. Finding an attorney with experience handling will administration is a strong attribute that’ll help streamline the process.

#3 How do you charge for services?

You won’t find an attorney’s fee listed on their website, so remember to be upfront about your budget and expectations from the get-go. The last thing that you want to do is to find the perfect lawyer only to realize that the process was filled with unexpected fees. Most of the time, you’ll find that attorneys use standard fees or hourly rates. Get the answer to this question before you begin the probate process.

#4 How much time does probate take?

Probate cases can take anywhere from seven months to over a year or two years to complete. The answer to this question entirely depends on the size of your loved one’s estate. As you may have guessed, smaller estates typically take much less time than larger estates. Finding the answer to this question will help you understand more about what the process will look like for your case.

#5 Is there any way to reduce probate costs?

An experienced probate attorney who knows what they are doing will be well-versed in probate cost reduction strategies. As such, this should be one of the top questions to ask a lawyer during your initial consultation. Experienced probate attorneys often develop testator strategies such as paying debts and funeral planning, which will be extremely beneficial to you during the probate process.

#6 How do you avoid probate disputes?

Probate disputes are an unfortunate reality if you are an executor or administrator. Avoid discouragement by hiring an attorney with plenty of experience in the dispute arena. Your job will not necessarily be smooth sailing, but choosing the right attorney can make the process less stressful. If angry beneficiaries and family members are a part of your case, you can send all their questions to your attorney.

Have Questions? We Have Answers

You now know the basic questions to ask a probate attorney. Now, it’s time to find a lawyer who has what it takes to properly administer your loved one’s estate. A one-on-one consultation is an excellent place to start. If your loved one lived in Illinois or owned real estate in Illinois, our experienced attorneys are here to make this process as stress-free as possible. Contact us today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

Note: This list is by no means all-inclusive. Rather, let it serve as a guideline for preparing yourself for an initial interview/consultation with a probate attorney.

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