You’ve probably heard the figure-of-speech ‘pennywise, pound-foolish’ used before to describe financial habits that realize small cost savings while simultaneously incurring larger ones. For example, someone may describe it as pennywise, pound-foolish to spend $2,500.00 on car repairs for a vehicle that is only worth $2,000.00.
Another example of pennywise, pound-foolish behaviour is driving to many grocery stores in order to purchase sale items, all the while spending more in gas money than what is realized in grocery cost savings. Applying for probate without the assistance of a probate lawyer is also, in many cases, pennywise and pound-foolish. Executors can apply for probate on their own without hiring a lawyer. In fact, we wrote an entire article about it, which you can check out here.
However, the cost savings of applying for probate without hiring a probate lawyer are usually outweighed by the time, hassle, risk, and challenges involved with completing the probate process on your own.
It’s Worthwhile, Because …
While there is some cost involved in hiring a probate lawyer, here are 10 reasons why it’s worthwhile to hire a probate lawyer if you’re an Estate Executor:
1. You’ll Receive Professional Legal Advice
Probate lawyers offer two things: legal services and professional legal advice. In some cases, you’re able to access or complete the ‘legal services’ component of probate on your own without a lawyer’s assistance. However, if you’re an Executor who applies for probate without the assistance of a probate lawyer, you’ll miss out on the valuable legal advice that an experienced probate lawyer can offer.
2. You’ll Save Time
Hiring a probate lawyer to complete your probate application will likely expedite the process. An experienced probate lawyer will know exactly what the court’s documentation requirements are before they apply for probate, which reduces the likelihood of the application being delayed for corrections. Additionally, most probate lawyers have court runners, couriers, and other support staff available to handle tasks that may otherwise require you to take time off work, or spend time waiting in line at the courthouse, post office, or Land Titles Office.
3. It’s Less Hassle
Probate applications can range in length from 15 to 50 or more pages of detailed legal documentation. Additionally, the Surrogate Court Rules which guide the probate application process are complex, and at times exacting, especially if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of the probate application requirements.
4. You Won’t ‘Miss’ Something
It’s easy to ‘miss something’ when applying for probate. If it’s something minor, like a missing detail or a misspelling in the application documents, it may not be a big deal.
However, probate laws in Alberta require an Executor to serve notice on various parties who may be interested in the deceased’s Estate. Oftentimes, it’s not entirely clear who must be served with notice—for example, an ex-spouse, even when a divorce has been finalized, is sometimes entitled to receive notice of the probate application. Additionally, all notices must be in the correct form and properly served on the receiving party. A prudent probate lawyer will have a thorough understanding of the notice requirements and can assist you with preparing and serving the same.
5. Your Lawyer Can Connect You with Valuable Resources
Once a Grant of Probate is issued, the Executor may have to hold funds in trust on behalf of minor beneficiaries. Even if there are no trust funds, every Estate must file multiple tax returns with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
While a probate lawyer isn’t able to provide you with financial or accounting advice, they can refer you to experienced tax specialists, accountants, financial planners, and realtors who can help you fulfill your Executor duties.
6. You Reduce the Risk of Being Sued
Beneficiaries can make legal claims against an Executor if they believe that the Executor has mishandled or misappropriated Estate funds. Even if you’re an honest and trustworthy Executor, you may inadvertently mishandle funds or fail to keep adequate financial records—this can open you up to unwanted lawsuits.
A probate lawyer can guide you through the ‘distribution and release’ process. During this process, your probate lawyer will request that you produce a financial accounting of all Estate funds that you’ve handled up to a particular distribution date. They will also require beneficiaries to sign releases before receiving their shares of Estate funds. This process reduces the likelihood of any lawsuit against the Executor succeeding.
7. You’ll Have Increased Peace-of-Mind
You may, for example, be able to watch a YouTube video, and figure out how to replace the brakes on your car. However, the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that your brakes were installed by a competent, professional automotive technician far outweighs the cost savings that might result from a DIY job. It’s tough to put a price on gaining peace-of-mind, and a professional probate lawyer is able to handle the often complex legal aspects of probate while leaving you to focus on the other important tasks that come with executorship.
8. You’ll Obtain a Full Understanding of Your Responsibilities as Executor
Executorship comes with many responsibilities. In addition to filing a probate application, an Executor also has to gather, store, insure, sell, and distribute the deceased’s assets. Many other secondary tasks attach to these responsibilities. A probate lawyer will help you understand the full extent of your legal responsibilities to the Estate and its beneficiaries.
9. You Won’t Miss Important Deadlines
Oftentimes, there are important deadlines that must be met during the probate process. For example, sometimes the Will doesn’t permit the filing of a probate application until a 30, 60, or 90-day waiting period has elapsed. In other cases, notices must be served on interested parties within a specified window. An experienced probate lawyer will know which deadlines affect you and will help you ensure that you meet them.
10. You May End Up Saving Money After All…
While there is a cost involved in hiring a probate lawyer, it may be less than the cost you incur if you fail to adequately administer the Estate. Any type of legal claim against the Estate or its Executor, regardless of whether it’s successfully defended, will likely incur lawyer’s fees in excess of the cost of a lawyer-drafted probate application.
We’re Your Trusted Alberta Probate Lawyers
If you’re unsure whether hiring a probate lawyer is worthwhile in your circumstances, contact the experienced Wills & Estates lawyers at West Legal. We’ll offer you a free-of-charge, no-obligation consultation with one of our probate lawyers, and if you choose to use our services, we’ll provide you with competitive, flat-rate legal fees without hidden costs. Contact us today—we’d be happy to meet with you!Contact a Calgary Probate Lawyer