What is the difference between a probate lawyer and an estate lawyer?

Attorneys often practice in more than one area of the law. When it comes to planning for your end of life needs, you’ll likely hear about two areas of the law that are closely related – probate and estate law. While these practices are closely related, there are important differences between probate lawyers and estate lawyers that you need to consider. Learn more about which lawyer can best help you and your family here.

Estate and Probate Law – Before and After Death

The easiest way to remember the difference between a probate and an estate lawyer is when you need these specialist lawyers’ help. Generally speaking, an estate lawyer or attorney helps you or your family plan for what will happen to your belongings, assets, debts, and other legal matters after your lifetime. These lawyers help you undertake estate planning. That means that an estate lawyer’s work is done while a person is still living.

Probate lawyers, on the other hand, often help families after someone has died to administer an estate. They may work with the executor of a person’s estate or help family members to file other paperwork when they need to contest a will or untangle unclear estate planning documents.

What Do Estate and Probate Lawyers Do?

You should meet with an estate lawyer, when possible, before you become incapacitated or there is a life or death emergency. Estate lawyers can help you and your family draft important documents that outline what happens to you, your property, and your other debts and assets in the event that you die or become incapacitated. They can help you and your family draft a will and set up a trust, if needed, to distribute your assets at the time of death. Estate lawyers can also help you and your family plan ahead for any long-term care or incapacitation with documents like healthcare proxies and powers of attorney so that a trusted family member or partner can handle your affairs.

Probate lawyers can help administer estates after a person’s death by filing paperwork in a probate court. In the event that you or your family member has not executed a will or set up a trust, a probate lawyer can help untangle and distribute the deceased person’s assets and pay their debts from the estate. Probate lawyers can also help family members and other parties of interest contest wills or navigate complicated legal matters in the wake of someone’s death.

What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need?

What kind of lawyer you need usually depends on whether you’re planning for what will happen to your estate after your lifetime or you’re dealing with the death of a loved one and need help administering their estate. If you don’t currently have a will or trust, you should hire an estate lawyer to help ensure that your family won’t be left to pick up the pieces after your death. If you find yourself in that situation – struggling to administer an estate – you should hire a probate attorney. In some cases, when you’re dealing with a long-term or unexpected incapacity, you might need a third type of attorney – a guardianship or conservatorship attorney – to help you plan for scenarios in which a person does not have the wherewithal to put their own affairs in order.

Trust the Davidson Law Firm with Your Family Needs

Whether you’re planning for the future or dealing with the death or incapacity of a loved one, trust the legal experts at the Davidson Law Firm. Our lawyers are experienced in family law, estate planning, and probate law. If you’re not sure where to start, call us today for a consultation. We can help you plan for the future, administer a loved one’s estate, and guide you through the estate planning or probate process with care and professionalism.


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