Hiring a probate attorney is an important decision, as this individual will be responsible for guiding you through the legal process of administering a loved one’s estate after they pass away. Probate law can be complex and confusing, so it is essential to find an attorney who is knowledgeable, experienced, and trustworthy. To ensure that you make the best possible choice, it is crucial to ask your potential probate attorney the right questions. There are a number of questions to ask a probate attorney before you hire the attorney.
Do I Have to Hire a Probate Attorney?
Yes, the probate court in most counties will require you to hire a probate attorney. This is a requirement of Texas law as only licensed attorneys can represent others. By serving as the personal representative, you are representing yourself and other heirs and, arguably, the creditors of the estate.
The only real exception to this is for probates in some of the smaller counties that do not enforce this requirement or for estates in which there is a will and you are the only beneficiary of the will.
Questions to Ask the Probate Attorney
Here are some common and recommended questions to ask your prospective probate attorney:
What is your experience with probate law?
It is important to understand the extent of your attorney’s experience with probate law. You should ask how many probate cases they have handled, how many years they have been practicing probate law, and if they have experience with cases similar to yours. You want to feel confident that your attorney has the knowledge and expertise to navigate your specific situation.
While the attorney professionalism rules generally do not allow attorneys to say that they specialize in certain issues or matters, probate attorneys generally do focus on certain issues or matters. For example, the attorney may focus on estates that will be contested, estates that involve minor heirs and guardianships, estates that have significant business or investment assets, estates that have significant tax issues, etc. It can be helpful to hire a specialist probate attorney for these non-standard estates.
What is your approach to probate cases?
Every attorney has their own approach to handling probate cases. Some attorneys may take a more aggressive approach, while others may be more collaborative. It is essential to understand your potential attorney’s approach and determine whether it aligns with your goals and expectations.
Knowing how the attorney handles conflicts can help you feel more confident in their ability to navigate any challenges that may arise. Ask your potential attorney about any previous cases they’ve handled that involved disputes or conflicts and how they were able to resolve them. You may also want to ask about their philosophy on conflict resolution and whether they prefer mediation, arbitration, or litigation as a means of resolving disputes.
What are your fees?
Probate attorney fees can vary widely, depending on the complexity of the case and the attorney’s experience. You should ask about their fees upfront and ensure that you understand how they will be billed. Some attorneys charge an hourly rate, while others charge a flat fee or a percentage of the estate’s value. You should also inquire about any additional costs or expenses that may be associated with your case.
Probate attorneys generally charge for their services. They are able to set their own rates, but the attorney professionalism rules say that the fee has to be reasonable. Whether a fee is reasonable depends on the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly, and whether the attorney is foregoing other work to work on the client’s matter.
For dependent administrations, the court has the ability to determine whether attorney fees are reasonable. Many courts set a range of hourly rates that are considered reasonable. These rates are often set out in written policies and available on the court’s website. For example, the Harris County Probate Courts provide a range of rates based on the attorney’s experience handling probate and guardianship matters. The top rate is currently $350 per hour.
The court does not have this power in independent administrations. Thus, attorneys and their clients are free to negotiate any reasonable amount and fee structure, such as hourly, fixed, or contingent fees.
In general, hourly fees will range from $300 to $500 per hour. The actual amount you are charged will depend on the attorney’s experience and the complexity of your case. It is important to ask for an estimate of how many hours the attorney expects to work on your case before you agree to hire them.
Some attorneys may charge a flat fee for their services. This means that they will charge one set price, regardless of how many hours they end up working on your case. Flat fees are less common in probate cases, but may be an option in some situations.
In some cases, attorneys may charge a contingency fee. This means that they will only get paid if they are successful in winning your case. If you lose, you won’t have to pay the attorney anything. Contingency fees are often used in personal injury cases, but can also be used in other kinds of cases as well.
In addition to their hourly or flat rate, most attorneys will charge for costs associated with your case as well. These costs can include things like filing fees and expert witness fees. In some cases, these costs can be quite high. Be sure to ask about them when you are talking to an attorney about your case.
How will you communicate with me throughout the process?
Effective communication is crucial throughout the probate process. You should ask your potential attorney how they prefer to communicate (e.g., email, phone, in-person), how often they will update you on the status of your case, and who else in their office will be working on your case.
Clear communication is key to a successful attorney-client relationship, so it’s important to establish expectations for how often you’ll be in touch with your probate attorney throughout the process. Make sure you understand how frequently your attorney plans on communicating with you and what methods they prefer (e.g., phone calls, emails).
You should also establish who your primary point of contact will be throughout the process. Will it be your attorney directly or another member of their team? Knowing who to reach out to with questions or concerns can help ensure that communication stays clear and efficient.
What is your timeline for completing the probate process?
The probate process can take several months or even years to complete, depending on the complexity of the case. You should ask your potential attorney for an estimated timeline and inquire about any potential roadblocks or delays that may arise.
Texas probate cases take a minimum of six months. Most take much longer than this. This is often due to processing delays with the court and, if there is no will, the attorney ad litem doing their investigation (they investigate the application for missing or omitted heirs).
Have you ever been disciplined by the State Bar of Texas?
It is important to ensure that your potential attorney has a clean disciplinary record with the State Bar of Texas. You can verify an attorney’s disciplinary history by visiting the State Bar of Texas website.
Look for any disciplinary actions or complaints against the attorney before making your decision.
What are the Benefits of Hiring a Probate Attorney?
Just because you have to hire a probate attorney, does not mean that you should view the engagement from this vantage point. Hiring a probate attorney does have a number of advantages.
Probate attorneys can help you navigate the complex process of probate and estate administration, ensuring that your loved one’s final wishes are carried out. They can also help you resolve any disputes that may arise during the probate process.
Probate attorneys often know how to get cases moving when cases are stuck. They also have the contacts to make other things happen, such as contacts to have houses cleaned out and sold, contacts for local investors who want to purchase probate property, funding sources, and more.
In addition to their legal expertise and practical abilities, probate attorneys can also provide valuable emotional support during this difficult time. They can help you understand the Texas Estates Code and all of the legal jargon associated with it, so that you can make informed decisions about your loved one’s estate. They can also help you deal with creditors and other interested parties so that you can focus on grieving and moving forward.
If you are facing the death of a loved one, don’t try to go through the probate process alone. Hire a qualified Texas probate attorney to help you through this difficult time.
How to Find a Good Probate Attorney in Texas
When it comes to finding a good probate attorney in Texas, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost, you want to make sure that the attorney you hire is experienced and knowledgeable in handling probate cases in Texas. There are a number of ways to go about doing this, but perhaps the best way is to ask around for recommendations from friends or family who have recently gone through the probate process in Texas.
When choosing a probate attorney in Texas, it’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable working with. This is particularly important if you anticipate any conflict during the probate process. You want to be confident that your attorney will be able to effectively represent your interests and advocate on your behalf.
If you find yourself in the position of needing to hire a Texas probate attorney, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, make sure you find an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in the area of probate law. Second, be sure to ask for referrals from friends or family members who have used a probate attorney in the past. Finally, be sure to shop around and compare prices before hiring an attorney so that you can get the best possible value for your money.
Do You Need a Probate Attorney?
An experienced probate attorney can help you navigate the complex probate process and ensure that your rights are protected. They can also help you gather evidence and build a strong case to support your claim. If you are considering challenging a will, contact an experienced probate attorney today to discuss your options.
Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.