Probate lawyers are attorneys who handle legal matters related to inheritance of the property of a deceased person. Their work typically involves validating of a deceased person’s will in court. They also help executors of the will to organize and appraise the property, pay debts incurred by the deceased and distribute what remains of the property to the beneficiaries. They also ensure that all tax obligations have been paid before the beneficiaries get their share of the property. They represent the deceased and the heirs of the deceased in court and ensure that the property is distributed according to the will or the probate court’s ruling. Where the deceased had incurred debts requiring some of the property to be sold off in order to pay, a probate lawyer can provide advice during this process.
With an aging population and increasing probate cases, the employment of lawyers is expected to increase such that probate lawyers with adequate experience and impressive academic records are expected to have the best work opportunities. Probate lawyers can work as employees in a law firm or they can choose to start their own private practice. With continued education, probate lawyers can go on to become law lecturers.
Education and Training
Probate lawyers, like other types of lawyers must have basic education and have an undergraduate degree. In addition, the one must sit the law school admission test before they are admitted into a law school. In law school, potential probate lawyers must go through about 4 years of intensive instruction during which they take core courses. The core courses equip them with a variety of skills such as legal research and writing as well as knowledge in the wider legal area. In the final years of law school, they specialize in courses specific to a career as a probate lawyer.
Most law schools require their students to go through internship to gain some practical experience before they can graduate. These internships are mostly done at probate law firms. On successful completion of law school and meeting the requirements for graduation, the students are awarded a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Aspiring lawyers must also sit the state bar exam, which earns them the license to practice probate law in a particular state, if they pass. Some states may also require them to pass an ethics examination.
Education for probate lawyers doesn’t end at passing the bar exam. They have to keep their skills updated and catch up on the changes in their legal field through regular continuing education.
Aside from having a good understanding of the rules, regulations and concepts relating to probate law, there are other features required of probate lawyers in order for them to dispense their duties effectively. These include analytical thinking, great negotiation skills and problem solving skills. It also helps for probate lawyers to be patient and self-confident, with good interpersonal and communication skills. This improves their ability to deal with the often emotional clients during the probate process.