Learn more about the situations in which hiring litigation support services makes sense.
You might be wondering, “What the heck are litigation support services, and why would I need them for the probate process?” And you wouldn’t be the first to have asked that question.
In the case of probate, litigation support services refer to hiring a lawyer or law firm to assist you with any potential legal issues relating to aging, disability and death. Prior to passing, it includes court battles over guardian and conservatorships, powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, and living wills. After death, it can involve disputes over wills and trusts, or distribution of estates, assets, bank accounts, gifts, and so on.
While many people might conjure vivid mental images of rich families feuding, or wives suing mistresses, these instances of infighting aren’t the only examples. Many probate litigation cases center around protection of a family member or loved one, or recovery of property or money from an “outsider” (think caregivers, insurance salesmen, or an overly influential neighbor).
When to Hire a Lawyer
If your loved one has passed, whether or not they had a will or trust, you may find yourself in the middle of a complex legal situation. In the event the estate needs to be administered as per the will’s instructions (for example: bills paid, or assets divided up), there is a high likelihood that a dispute will arise between one or more of the beneficiaries.
This is also the case when an estate or trust is being dispersed by the state. Many beneficiaries feel they have been cheated, or that the asset allocation is unfair to them in some way. Some will challenge the will or trust itself, questioning the departed’s ability to make sound legal decisions, or the influence someone may have over them in their last days.
While it is certainly possible for a family to resolve these disputes without legal assistance, it is almost always in an individual’s self-interest to at least seek some basic advice, especially if the estate is valued over $150,000.
If the estate and property is worth less than $150,000, you may be able to file a series of motions to skip probate and leverage a more simplified process of ownership transfer. However, you’ll still want to talk to a lawyer to determine if these exceptions apply in your case, and for assistance in identifying and filling out all the forms needed.
When You May Be Able to Handle Settling an Estate on Your Own
You may be able to skip probate all together depending on the type of title ownership, and how it was owned. For example, if something is jointly owned, with a right to survivorship, then the co-owner gets the property.
This is similar when considering the type of contract. Insurance claims, IRA retirement plans, and 401k’s, all have clearly designated beneficiaries. You don’t need to pass through probate to distribute them.
At the end of the day, whether you hire an attorney for probate litigation largely depends on your situation and how contentious the relationships are between beneficiaries and other impacted parties.
If you’re in or around Commerce, Georgia, click here to learn more about litigation support services by contacting our team at Wilbanks Law Firm, P.C. online.