If you're the executor of someone's estate, and they didn't put their assets into anything that could help avoid probate, you might not be in for the easiest time. Probate is the process through which a court verifies the validity of a will and divides up property. That sounds like a process that anyone can do, but the way the legal system is set up, if assets aren't specifically protected from probate, they have to go through it -- and that takes time and money. You can't just give heirs assets and be done with it. And if the estate is complicated enough, you may need an attorney to help you deal with all of the administrative issues that are going to come up.

Asset Sales

One situation in which you'll definitely need a probate attorney is if there are assets that could be jointly owned like businesses. If the heirs don't want the business, or property or other asset, they might want to sell it. However, that isn't a simple matter if the asset is in probate. A probate attorney can help determine if a sale is possible (if some of the heirs don't want to sell while others do) and get the asset appraised.

Debt Payoffs

Even if the estate doesn't contain any problematic assets, it can still require the help of an attorney. If the deceased left debts that are bigger than the value of his or her assets, the attorney can figure out which debts should be repaid through the sale of the deceased's assets and which debts will be discharged.

Sometimes companies to which the deceased owed money, like credit card companies, will claim the deceased's relatives have to pay the debt, but that is not always true. For example, in most cases, a credit card debt would go unpaid if the card did not have a co-signer and the estate was not big enough to cover the debt. However, if the state you're in is a community property state, the Federal Trade Commission says the deceased's spouse might be responsible. Only an experienced probate attorney can help the estate figure out who owes what debts, if any, once the main debtor dies.

Family Fights

If the members of the family of the deceased are at odds with each other over the estate, then even the simplest of probate procedures will need an attorney's help. Disputes can tie up probate proceedings as the court tries to determine what outcome would be fairest and most appropriate. A probate attorney can help you navigate through this situation so that you experience as few consequences and problems as possible.

If you have more questions about probate, speak to a probate attorney, like those at Flaccus Law, as soon as possible. If the estate you're handling looks like it will become complicated and take years to settle, a probate attorney is the only person who can help you deal with the situation.