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What Is the Difference Between an Estate Planning Attorney and a Probate Lawyer?

Posted on August 8, 2023 in estate planning,probate

While some people use the terms estate planning attorney and probate lawyer interchangeably, the two are fundamentally different. Estate law is tricky for anyone unfamiliar with the terms, but it’s important to know what everything means when dealing with the law.

Both attorneys help clients manage estates, but they do so at different times in a person’s life.

What Is an Estate Planning Attorney?

Estate planning attorneys are the people that help you prepare for the end of your life. They are the professionals you contact when you need help regarding a will and anything that happens after you die. Estate planning attorneys help you get your affairs in order and make plans for how you want your wealth distributed or your body handled after you pass away.

Estate planning attorneys can help clients draft wills and living wills. They also have experience in crafting trusts for your family. While you can create a will on your own and self-validate it, your family may find that it will cause issues later if anyone wants to contest the document.

Living wills are especially useful but are often never considered by people nearing the end of their lives. A living will dictates what will happen if you ever become unable to make decisions for yourself as the result of an illness or accident. These documents will help you ensure that your caretakers handle your wishes properly when you cannot advocate for yourself.

What is the Difference Between an Estate Planning Attorney and a Probate Lawyer?

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

Probate lawyers handle a person’s affairs after they’ve deceased. A probate lawyer’s job is sometimes simple. They simply follow through on the will and ensure that they properly administer the deceased’s wishes.

A probate lawyer can help the family in dividing assets and paying off any debts. Probate lawyers have another job, and it’s advocating in probate court.

Probate court is where a judge will validate the authenticity of a will and make sure that everything is legally proper concerning it. Someone who has had their affairs sorted out by an estate planning attorney, and has everything appropriately notarized, can have a will that can easily pass through probate court.

When the will is not properly set up or doesn’t exist, things get more difficult, and the battles begin in probate court. You may find yourself tied up in intricate legal matters while dealing with a family member’s death. Probate lawyers can advocate for your rights in court, though it’s often better to avoid the issues in the first place.

Choosing Between an Estate Planning Attorney and a Probate Lawyer

One might think of estate planning attorneys as preventive medicine, while probate lawyers are the prescription you get after you’re sick. An estate planning attorney is someone you go to before you die or are incapacitated. A probate attorney is who you call when a close family member passes away, and you need assistance executing the will.

In the course of a person’s life, their family will likely deal with both an estate planning attorney and a probate lawyer. Even if your family member left a will, you may still need to work with a probate attorney to make sure that you can handle all their affairs and last wishes.

Is Estate Planning Worth It?

Properly planning for your death is always worth it, and having the right estate plan can help give your family fewer problems to deal with. You shouldn’t wait, as you never know when an accident may leave you incapacitated and unable to handle your affairs. If you want to help your family avoid a lengthy battle in probate court, do some estate planning while you can.

Estate plans also ensure that your family upholds your medical wishes. You can enshrine these guidelines in a living will.


Q: How Does an Estate Plan Differ From a Will?

A: A will is just one part of an estate plan. Your will explains what happens to your loved ones and property after you pass away. An estate plan tries to plan for all contingencies and includes documents for powers of attorney, a living will, trusts, and advance directives. Having an estate plan can ensure that your attorney can handle your requests properly when the time comes.

Q: What Are Three Elements of an Estate Plan?

A: An estate plan has three main elements: 

  1. Last will and testament
  2. Advance health care directive
  3. Durable power of attorney

These three elements ensure that you are cared for when you cannot advocate for yourself and when you pass away. A will handles your affairs after your death, a power of attorney allows others to make decisions for you when you can’t, and a health care directive guides doctors on what medical care you’d like.

Q: Why Should You Have an Estate Plan?

A: Everyone should have an estate plan. While it may not seem useful to young people who have their whole lives ahead of them, an estate plan helps protect your family in the event of an unforeseen medical episode. Those who leave behind no estate plan are setting up their families to have to fight over their possessions. You also will not be able to get the medical care you desire if you don’t let everyone know ahead of time.

Q: What Are the Two Key Documents Used to Prepare an Estate Plan?

A: Wills and trusts are perhaps the two most pivotal parts of any estate plan. These documents allow you to set the guidelines for what happens to your estate after you pass away. You can choose who gets what. A trust allows you to avoid some legal entanglements and avoid inheritance taxes. With these two documents in your corner, you can make sure that your last wishes come true after you pass away.

Ken R. Ashworth & Associates: Estate Lawyers You Can Trust

An estate planning attorney helps you be at ease when the end of your life comes. You can know that someone is handling your interests as you instructed.

At Ken R. Ashworth & Associates, we can help you craft an estate plan and make sure that everything is correct to avoid any hassle in probate court. Contact us today to get started.