The easy straight forward answer is that you do not need a lawyer to handle your probate. However, it’s probably a better idea to hire a lawyer to handle your Indiana probate matter. Why? Because here are a lot of rules and steps that need to be followed. For instance, if you’re going to file your petition to open a probate estate, the petition must be verified and must contain specific information. The petition is filed by the person named as the executor in the last will and testament or any interested person. The petition has to include basic information about the deceased person, as well as identify the person’s known assets and debts.
Once you’re appointed personal representative/executor, you must publish notice of the estate in the newspaper. Then you must give notice to beneficiaries and Indiana Medicaid department if the decedent was over 55 years old. At some point within the first 60 days, you will need to prepare an inventory. Depending upon what type of probate matter you opened, you may have file the inventory in court or you may have to just provide the inventory to the other beneficiaries.
During the process, the personal representative is probably going to need advice on disposing or selling assets. The personal representative may also need assistance filing life insurance claims, getting a tax ID number for the estate, filing the deceased final personal tax return, transferring vehicles, dealing with any creditors who may want a portion of the estate, and/or dealing with a difficult beneficiary. If there’s a mortgage on a home or a mortgage on a boat or a secured loan on some other piece of property, you may need a lawyer to deal with the needs of these creditors.
Finally, when it comes time to close the estate, the petition to close the estate has specific information that the court will require. There are forms out there but for most estates it is just easier to have a lawyer help you jump through all these hoops.
The probate process has lots of rules because the law wants to make sure that the decedent’s wishes are followed to a tee and that the beneficiaries who are supposed to receive money or property get what they are supposed to get. Because of these rules and the different personalities that may be involved in the estate, an attorney makes the process easier and less scary, but if you are a person who can follow rules and are very organized, you can certainly handle the probate matter without an attorney. A court isn’t going to tell you that you can’t file a probate matter for yourself, but the court and the court staff is unable to provide legal advice so they may tell you to look for the assistance of a probate attorney to answer your questions and make sure that you are handling the matter correctly. might recommend at certain point in times that at least you get some assistance.
If you are considering handling your own Indiana probate, you should at least consult with an experienced probate attorney beforehand. Probate law can be complex, and there are many potential pitfalls. An attorney can help you jump through all the required hoops and avoid any costly mistakes.