Practice Areas

Real Estate

If you are thinking of buying, selling, leasing, or investing in real estate, you should consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that your transaction is properly completed. Our attorneys are experienced in handling transactions involving commercial, industrial, and residential properties, as well as, undeveloped land, farms, and ranches.

We help clients with the following matters:

  • Real Estate Sales Transactions
  • Mortgages
  • Foreclosures (Plaintiff)
  • Investment Property
  • Section 1031 Tax-Free Exchanges
  • Title Examination
  • Abstracts
  • Quiet Title
  • Partition
  • Deeds
  • Joint Tenancy
  • Tenancy in Common

Estate Planning

Establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. It puts you in charge of your finances and can spare your loved ones of the expense, delay, and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away or become disabled.

Providing for Incapacity

If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you, you must designate a person or persons that you trust in proper legal documents. Doing so will give them the authority to withdraw money from your accounts, pay bills, take distributions from your IRAs, sell stocks, and refinance your home.

Avoiding Probate

If you leave your estate to your loved ones using a will, everything you own will pass through probate. Unfortunately, this process is expensive, time-consuming, and open to the public.

The probate court is in control of the process until the estate has been settled and distributed. If you are married and have children, you want to ensure that your surviving family has immediate access to cash to pay for living expenses while your estate is being settled.

It is common for the probate courts to freeze assets for weeks or even months while trying to determine the proper disposition of the estate. Your surviving spouse may be forced to apply to the probate court for needed cash to pay current living expenses, which can be a stressful experience. With proper planning, your assets can pass on to your loved ones without undergoing probate, in a manner that is quick, inexpensive, and private.

Providing for Minor Children

A contingency plan should provide for persons you’d like to manage your assets as well as the guardian you’d like to nominate for the upbringing of your children.

The person, or trustee, in charge of the finances does not have to be the same person as the guardian. In fact, in many situations, you may want to purposely designate different persons to maintain a system of checks and balances. Otherwise, the decision as to who will manage your finances and raise your children will be left to a court of law. 

Planned Giving

If you want to benefit a charitable organization or cause, your estate plan can accommodate this desire either during your lifetime or after your death. Depending on how your planned giving arrangement is set up, you may receive a stream of income for life, earn higher investment yield, or reduce your capital gains or estate taxes.

We find that the most important aspect is not your valuables, but your values, and how they will be addressed as you design your estate plan with our help.

Probate and Estate Administration

When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. If your loved one owned his or her assets through a well-drafted and properly funded living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary and the successor trustee will administer the distribution of the deceased's assets.

The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court. Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • 1 Filing of a petition with the proper probate court
  • 2 Notice to heirs under the will or to statutory heirs (if no will exists)
  • 3 Petition to appoint an executor (in the case of a will) or administrator for the estate
  • 4 Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by executor/administrator
  • 5 Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors
  • 6 Sale of estate assets.
  • 7 Payment of estate taxes, if applicable
  • 8 Final distribution of assets to heirs

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if someone objects to the will?

An objection to a will, also known as a “will contest”, is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate.

In order to contest a will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections. This usually occurs when, for example, children are to receive disproportionate shares under the will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior will to a later one. In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as executor.

Does probate administer all property of the deceased?

Probate is primarily a process through which the title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. Certain types of assets that are called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate. These include:

  • Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”. Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and does not go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.
  • Property owned by a living trust. Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.

Do I get paid for serving as an executor?

Executors are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased estate. In addition, you may be entitled to statutory fees, which vary from location to location and on the size of the probate estate. The executor has to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the estate with the highest degree of integrity and can be held liable for mismanagement of estate assets in his or her care. It is advised that the executor retain an attorney and an accountant to advise and assist him with his or her duties.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about real estate or estate planning and administration, give us a call. Our legal professionals are here to help.