Can I handle probate without a lawyer?
Get Legal Help Today
Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.
No state requires you to use a lawyer to probate an estate, but probate can be complicated, and you can be personally liable if you do something wrong. One minor omission, one failure to send a copy of the petition, or a missed deadline can cause everything to come to a grinding halt. Among other problems, this kind of mistake is likely to make you unpopular with the beneficiaries.
If the estate you are working with is simple and you have clear instructions and copies of the forms you need, you may be able to go through the probate process without getting legal advice, but if complications arise you will need legal help of some kind.
For example, if any of the following circumstances come to light, it is recommended that you seek legal counsel:
- If there is a complicated tax situation, such as a dispute over past taxes;
- Ambiguities in the wording of the will;
- Disputed claims, such as a spouse who says property left to someone else is community property;
- Problems with disputed debts or unfinished contracts, such as the sale of a business that wasn’t completed;
- A significant amount of property left to a minor who needs to have a guardian appointed; or
- If the estate doesn’t have enough assets to pay all the debts.
Keep in mind that you have several options for hiring a probate lawyer. You don’t necessarily have to turn the whole process over to an attorney. It may be enough to consult, get advice, or have an attorney review documents you have prepared. If you are unsure about the probate procedure or about the estate, you need to get legal advice, and you may decide to just let the lawyer do it.