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Can I Complete Probate Without an Attorney?

As a Folsom lawyer who specializes in probate, I am often asked whether or not an individual can complete the probate process without the involvement of a lawyer. Whether you need an attorney for probate depends on several factors, including the complexity of the estate, the presence of a valid will, and your comfort level with legal processes. Here are some considerations to help you decide whether to hire an attorney for probate:

  1. Simple Estates:
    • If the estate is relatively simple, with minimal assets, no disputes among heirs, and straightforward distribution instructions, you may be able to handle the probate process without an attorney. Some jurisdictions offer simplified probate procedures for small estates, known as Small Estate. California offers such procedures for estates valued at under $184,500 as of 2023. Small Estates can be completed without the help of a lawyer, but due to the specific requirements in completing them and the drawn out effect of not completing them properly, it is still recommended to use a lawyer. 
  2. Complex Estates:
    • Larger estates, estates with significant debts, or those with complex asset structures will benefit from the expertise of an attorney. Complications can arise, especially if there are disputes among heirs or creditors.
  3. Legal Requirements:
    • Probate laws vary by jurisdiction, and there are specific legal requirements that must be followed. An attorney can ensure that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly and in a timely manner.
  4. Debts and Creditors:
    • If the deceased person had outstanding debts, an attorney can help navigate the process of satisfying creditors and handling any claims against the estate. There are specific requirements in California for properly handling such claims and if these requirements are not followed, it could lead to complications with the probate. 
  5. Contested Issues:
    • If there are disputes among heirs, challenges to the validity of the will, or other contested issues, having an attorney can be crucial. Legal representation can help protect your interests and navigate potential conflicts.
  6. Estate Tax Issues:
    • If the estate is subject to federal estate taxes, an attorney can provide guidance on minimizing tax liability and ensuring compliance with tax laws.
  7. Executor Responsibilities:
    • The executor (also known as a Personal Representative in California) of the estate has significant responsibilities, and an attorney can assist in fulfilling these duties, including asset inventory, creditor notification, and distribution of assets.
  8. Court Representation:
    • If court appearances are required, having an attorney can be beneficial. This is especially true if there are hearings related to contested matters or if the court requests additional information. As a general rule, if matters are contested, an attorney should be retained. 


While you are not legally required to have an attorney for probate, many people find that legal guidance can streamline the process and provide peace of mind. If you’re unsure whether to hire an attorney, consider consulting with one for an initial assessment. Some attorneys offer consultations to discuss your specific situation and provide advice on whether their services would be beneficial. If you are seeking the guidance of an experienced Folsom probate lawyer or have any questions about whether you can complete probate without an attorney, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message

Client Reviews

Karn was absolutely amazing in helping our family’s estate planning. So professional and made the process so easy. A hell of a guy!!!

Beverley K.

Honest,efficient,fast and fair priced.

Mitchell P.

Efficient, quick, friendly. An easy experience.

Loretta K.

Karn is very easy to talk to! Professional, responsive, very engaging, explains the processes. Very honest World class Attorney!!

Joe C.

Karn was recommended to me by a friend who had worked with him in the past. He took the time to walk me through the estate planning process, addressed my many questions and at no point made me feel pressured to...

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