If you’re starting the probate process, then the odds are good you have a lot of questions. Those who are new to probate may wonder what steps are involved, how long the process takes to complete, and whether you will be expected to deal with creditors.

Additionally, those participating in probate may be concerned about whether they need to meet their attorney in person before the process begins. The good news is that probate attorneys work with clients they haven’t met in person all the time. Moreover, the probate process can move faster and more smoothly when you don’t have to worry about scheduling in-office meetings.

At JacksonWhite, we’re passionate about helping families navigate the probate process with minimal inconvenience and distress. Keep reading to learn more about the probate process and discover how an attorney can handle your case virtually.

What Is Probate?

A legal process, probate is the term for the distribution of a deceased person’s estate to their heirs and beneficiaries. If the decedent left a last will and testament, the court will generally dispense property based on their wishes. However, if the deceased did not have a will, property will be distributed based on Arizona state law.

Decedents typically name an administrator, known as the executor, in their will. Should the deceased neglect to name an executor, the probate court will choose one. Below are the steps you can expect to go through as the executor of a will that’s in probate:

  1. Establishing Validity – The court will assess whether or not the will meets state requirements to determine its validity. In order to be valid, a will should be signed, witnessed, and notarized.
  2. Assessing Property – The court will review the decedent’s belongings, identifying and inventorying all assets. As the executor, you will not be able to sell or distribute assets until probate is complete.
  3. Paying Creditors – The estate will need to pay off the deceased’s debts and settle any remaining tax bills.
  4. Distribute Assets – Once debts have been paid, the estate can distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries.

Why You Need a Probate Attorney

You are not required by law to have a probate attorney. However, working with one can be in your family’s best interest. Here are some of the many advantages associated with hiring a probate lawyer:

Expedite the Process

Anyone who’s gone through probate knows that the process can be frustratingly slow. One of the best reasons to use a probate attorney is that they have experience navigating the Arizona courts. As a result, they can simplify and expedite the process while avoiding pitfalls.

In some cases, working with an attorney virtually is even more efficient because you don’t have to wait days or even weeks to secure an appointment time in person. Instead, your attorney can focus on preparing the necessary documents and getting you into court faster.

Resolve Family Disputes

Family arguments are all too common in probate cases. One of the benefits of hiring a probate lawyer is that you can hand off some of those awkward conversations. Because they have extensive experience dealing with these types of situations, a probate attorney can navigate tricky interpersonal conflicts with tact and expertise.

Deal With Creditors

In some cases, the deceased leaves beneficiaries to deal with a pile of bills. A knowledgeable probate attorney can negotiate a creditor’s claim. The end result is that the estate goes through probate faster, and the heirs receive more of the property that’s due them.

Reasons Why You Might Not Meet Your Attorney

These days, it’s common for probate clients not to meet their attorneys. Below are a few reasons that you might not wind up seeing your probate lawyer face to face:

  • Distance: Probate cases are generally resolved in the state where the deceased lives. As Arizona probate attorneys, we have clients who live all over the country. We’re accustomed to working with our probate clients virtually, as it allows us to resolve their estates faster and with less inconvenience to their daily routines.
  • Safety: COVID-19 has impacted just about every industry, and the legal field is no exception. Even if your probate attorney lives nearby, you may opt to meet them virtually to reduce the risk to your health and that of your family.
  • Technology: Modern technology makes virtual legal work easier than ever. Along with scanners, fax machines, and email, today’s best law firms use Zoom and other programs to speak to their clients face to face from anywhere in the world.