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Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers

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Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers

Estate and Probate Law Lawyers by Practice Area

Best Estate and Probate Law Attorneys in the United States

Lawyer Legion Top Picks for 2023

The following list was determined using a number of factors including both objective and subjective criteria. Lawyers were selected based on their career accomplishments, high-profile cases, professional involvement, community leadership, and board certifications.

This list includes many of the most highly accomplished estate and probate lawyers currently practicing in the United States.

When reviewing this list, please be aware of each of the following:

  • Lawyers cannot pay to be included in this list.
  • Only lawyers who are active on Lawyer Legion were selected.
  • It is difficult to compare lawyers who practice in different states across the country.
  • It is impossible to accurately determine a national list of attorneys who are actually “the best” at practicing probate law but our list comes close.
Christopher Botti
Botti & Morison
Ventura, CA
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Rudy L Ogburn
Young Moore and Henderson, P.A.
Raleigh, NC
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Rebecca Graveline Doane
Doane and Doane, PA
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
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Kevin Patrick Urbatsch
The Urbatsch Law Firm, P.C.
Pleasant Hill, CA
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Randell Craig Doane
Doane & Doane, PA
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
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Paul M Hattenhauer
Culp Elliott & Carpenter, PLLC
Charlotte, NC
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Mary Robinson Hervig
Roberts & Stevens
Asheville, NC
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Jeffrey Scott Goethe
Barnes Walker, Goethe, Perron & Shea, PLLC
Bradenton, FL
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Scott Marshall Grossman
The Grossman Law Firm, APC
Riverside, CA
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Caren Callahan
Law Offices of Caren Callahan
Ukiah, CA
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Raymond P Ladouceur
Ladouceur Law Firm, LLC
Abita Springs, LA
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Paul Franklin Wright
The Wright Firm, LLP
Dallas, TX
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Estate and Probate Law Bar Associations and Legal Organizations

American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) - The ACTEC is a national invitation-only professional association for attorneys who practice estate planning and probate law, including wills and trusts. The organization is made up of Fellows who have been vetted by the organization and have demonstrated significant knowledge and experience with estate and probate law. The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel provide resources and education to lawyers while also providing comment to Congress and other legislative bodies.

Specialty Certifications in Estate and Probate Law

National Association of Estate Planners & Councils
Estate Planning Law Specialist (EPLS) - Attorneys who are involved in estate planning can become certified by the NAEPC as Estate Planning Law Specialists (EPLS). The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils is dedicated to establishing and ensuring standards for professionals, including attorneys, who assist people with arranging the disposal of their estate after death. The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils also serves as a national network for many local councils, which serve as affiliates of the NAEPC. The local councils provide education and networking for estate planning professionals.
State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization
Estate & Trust Law -
State Bar of California
Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law - For California's Board Certification program the term "estate planning, trust, and probate law" is the practice of law that includes multiple areas, for instance, creating a will or trust, and protecting assets. A trust and estate attorney who applies for board certification in California must demonstrate that within the specified period he or she has been substantially involved in the practice of estate planning, trust, and probate law. Furthermore, an attorney who is a certified specialist has demonstrated proficiency in this specialized field of law.
The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education
Wills, Trusts, and Estates Law -
North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization
Estate Planning and Probate Law - The North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization offers board certification for Estate Planning and Probate Law. Attorneys in this field safeguard assets like real estate, securities, and businesses within estate plans. Estate planning often intersects with tax and family law disciplines. Attorneys certified in this area have demonstrated substantial involvement in estate management, tax implications, legal document preparation, and overseeing will probate and estate administration.
Ohio State Bar Association
Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law -
Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Estate Planning and Probate Law - Find Board Certified Lawyers in Estate Planning and Probate in Texas. This specialty practice area involves conserving, protecting and transferring property through wills, trusts or gifts, as well as providing financial resources for minors. Estate Planningand Probate attorneys also represent clients in probate proceedings, elder law issues, and minimizing taxes on estates.

United States Government and Court Resources

Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States - The Judiciary Act of 1789, Article III of the Constitution allowed for the establishment of the Supreme Court. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court is the highest in the Nation. It has jurisdiction over all state and federal cases that involve a violation of Constitutional or Federal laws. The court has the power of judicial review and is the interpreter of the Constitution. Furthermore, the court consist of the Chief Justice of the United States and associate justices.

United States Courts

United States Courts - Article III of the Constitution helped create the United States Courts. Congress also created several legislative courts, such as the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, U.S. Tax Court, and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Federal courts hear cases in which the United States is an interested party, bankruptcy cases, disputes between states, maritime law, and cases involving the violation of federal or constitutional laws. Additionally, the courts help decide what happened, what should be done about the situation, if a person committed the crime, and what punishment to give to the persons.

Overview of Probate Law in the United States

What is Probate Law

After a person dies, the law intends for an orderly passing of that person's assets to family members. Each state has certain laws that create a framework for how the passing is intended to happen; usually, the person's assets are divided among his or her immediate family. However, in real life, family relations can be very complicated, and little might be in black and white. The time after the death of family member can often be a time of family in-fighting over who deserves what.

A person, while still living, can write a will to either to straighten out the passing of assets after death, or if he or she would like to distribute assets differently than the law provides. However, wills can still contain complicated legal issues. When any such matter is litigated, it may go before a probate court or a regular civil court, depending on the jurisdiction. Parties may hire an estate and probate lawyer to represent their interests.

Distribution of Assets After Death

If a person dies without a will, it is called being "intestate." The law will designate certain people to inherit the deceased's assets, called the "estate," when that person dies. These people are called "heirs," and the scheme by which they are designation is called "succession." Succession is determined by the laws of the state. Most states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, which has been approved by the American Bar Association. However, many states have altered or created variations of the Code.

The line of succession, even under the Uniform Code, is very complicated and depends greatly on the remaining family of the deceased and upon the value of the estate. If the deceased has a surviving spouse, that person will usually receive the greatest share, followed by any children the deceased may have had. Succession can both travel down, to the deceased's children, and up, to the deceased's parents. If no heirs can be identified, the estate usually escheats, meaning it becomes property of the state.

Key Issues in Estate and Probate Law

  • Wills:A person can direct how they want their estate distributed by writing a will. A will appoints an executor to carry out the will's demands. However, there are usually stringent legal requirements for a will. Additionally, the writer of the last will and testament, called the "testator," will not be available to testify to his or her intent, so the will must be very clear and cover many contingencies. For this reason, most people leave the writing of wills to lawyers.

    Find a lawyer for wills.

  • Trusts:There are typically large taxes that are levied on a deceased person's estate when it is distributed. A trust may help avoid some of those taxes. Additionally, trusts allowed the testator to have firmed control over how the assets are handled, which can be particularly important if the heir is a child or other person not competent to handle the assets.

    Find a lawyer for trusts.

  • Probate:Probate is the process of administering a will. It could include litigation if the will is contested by any interested parties. Interested parties may hire a probate lawyer to represent their interests in this process.

    Find a probate lawyer.

  • Estate Planning:An attorney can help his or her client examine the whole of his or her estate and advise the client on the best possible way to distribute it.

    Find an estate planning lawyer.

Estate Planning and Probate Law Board Certification

Many attorneys practice exclusively in probate court and on probate matters. However, fewer attorney take the effort to become certified probate and estate lawyers. Certified probate and estate lawyers have earned the approved of an independent national or state body, showing they have met certain requirements.

Hiring an Estate and Probate Lawyer

When a person is hiring an estate and probate lawyer to write, it must be someone they are entrusting with the ability to create a plan that will go on without them. To contest a will, the lawyer must be able to find any and all flaws and issues. These and any other estate and probate issues require an attorney with close attention to detail and a vast and comprehensive understanding of the law. A certified attorney has met rigourous standards to prove such a capability.

Additionally, a lawyer who is a member of a professional organization dedicated to estate law, like the American College of Trust and Estate Council, have access to ongoing discussion, resources and continuing legal education.

The Most Common Trusts Used for Estate Planning in the US

The most common trusts used for estate planning include:

  • Children's Trusts
  • Revocable Living Trusts
  • Credit Shelter Trusts
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • IRA Beneficiary ('see-through') Trusts

A trust and estate attorney can help you understand the role of each type of trust, the tax consequences of the trust, and the best ways to draft and fund the trust.

The Most Common Mistakes in Estate Planning

People often make mistakes when planning their estate issues especially when drafting wills and administering estates after someone dies. The most common mistakes include:

  • the failure to write a will
  • having an inexperienced attorney write your will or prepare your estate plan
  • the failure to have a revocable trust
  • not owning your life insurance policy
  • the failure to provide for the necessary flexibility in an estate plan
  • the improper use or the failure to properly fund the “lifetime” trusts
  • the failure to properly coordinate retirement accoun designations with the estate plan
  • the outright bequests to young or immature children
  • the failure to coordinate beneficiary designations with the will

Estate and Probate Resources

Uniform Probate Code: Maintained by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, the Uniform Code is the basis for probate law in most states.

National College of Probate Judges: Find a nationwide organization of judges who preside over probate matters.

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