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Probate: Can You Do It Yourself?

Woman at laptop researching probate: can you do it yourself?

Are you facing the complicated process of probate and wondering, “Probate: can you do it yourself?” Look no further! In this DIY guide to probate, we will explore whether you have what it takes to navigate this legal process without professional assistance.

Probate can be a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and resources, you might be able to save yourself time and money by handling it yourself. In this article, we will break down the steps involved in probate, discuss the potential challenges you may face, and provide you with valuable tips to make the process smoother.

Whether you are the personal representative of a loved one’s estate or planning ahead for your own affairs, understanding the basics of probate is essential. We will delve into the legal requirements, paperwork, deadlines, and potential pitfalls you should be aware of. By the end of this guide, you will have a clearer picture of the complexity involved and whether you’re up for the DIY challenge.

Don’t let probate intimidate you. Dive into this comprehensive guide and discover if you have the skills to handle it yourself!

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to their beneficiaries and any outstanding debts are settled. It involves validating the deceased’s will (if there is one), identifying and appraising assets, paying off debts, and distributing the remaining assets according to the deceased’s wishes or the laws of intestacy if there is no will.

The purpose of probate is to ensure that the deceased’s assets are properly accounted for and transferred to the appropriate individuals or entities. It provides a legal framework for the orderly distribution of an estate and protects the rights of beneficiaries and creditors.

Probate can be a complex and time-consuming process, involving various legal and administrative tasks. The specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but the general principles remain the same.

In the next sections, we will explore whether handling probate yourself is a viable option and discuss the pros and cons of taking on this responsibility.

Pros and cons of handling probate yourself

Handling probate yourself can have both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the pros first.

One of the main advantages of handling probate yourself is the potential cost savings. Hiring an attorney to handle probate can be expensive, especially if the estate is small or straightforward. By taking on the responsibility yourself, you can save on legal fees and potentially have more control over the process.

Another advantage is the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the legal and financial aspects of probate. Handling probate can be a valuable learning experience, allowing you to become more knowledgeable about estate planning, asset distribution, and the legal system. This knowledge can be beneficial not only for the current probate process but also for any future dealings with estates.

On the other hand, there are also several disadvantages to consider. Probate can be time-consuming and emotionally draining, especially if you are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Taking on the responsibility of handling probate yourself can add to the stress and burden during an already difficult time.

In addition, probate requires a thorough understanding of the legal and administrative procedures involved. If you are not familiar with the laws and regulations governing probate in your jurisdiction, you may make mistakes that could delay the process or lead to costly errors. Hiring an experienced probate attorney can provide peace of mind and ensure that everything is done correctly.

Now that we have explored the pros and cons, let’s move on to the next section and determine whether you need to go through probate in the first place.

Do you need to go through probate?

Not all assets are subject to probate, so it’s essential to determine whether you need to go through the process at all. In general, assets that pass directly to beneficiaries outside of probate do not need to go through the formal probate process.

Assets that may bypass probate include:

1. Jointly owned property: If you own property jointly with someone else, such as a spouse or business partner, the property typically passes directly to the surviving owner upon your death.

2. Assets with designated beneficiaries: Certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death (POD) bank accounts, allow you to designate beneficiaries. When you pass away, these assets automatically transfer to the designated beneficiaries without going through probate.

3. Revocable living trusts: If you have set up a revocable living trust and transferred your assets into it, the trust will continue to manage and distribute those assets according to your instructions, without the need for probate.

It’s important to note that the laws regarding probate and non-probate assets may vary depending on the jurisdiction. Consulting an attorney or estate planning professional can help you determine which assets are subject to probate and which can be transferred outside of the probate process.

In the next section, we will explore whether you have what it takes to handle probate yourself.

Probate: Can You Do It Yourself?

Handling probate yourself requires a certain level of knowledge, organization, and attention to detail. It’s essential to assess whether you have the skills and resources necessary to navigate the probate process successfully.

One of the first things you should consider is the complexity of the estate. Probate can range from relatively simple and straightforward to highly complex, depending on factors such as the size of the estate, the number of beneficiaries, and the presence of any legal disputes or challenges.

If the estate is small and uncomplicated, with few assets and beneficiaries, you may be able to handle probate yourself with relative ease. However, if the estate is large and involves complex financial arrangements, multiple properties, or contentious family dynamics, it may be more prudent to seek professional assistance.

Another factor to consider is your comfort level with legal and administrative tasks. Probate involves various paperwork, deadlines, and legal requirements that must be followed precisely. If you are organized, detail-oriented, and comfortable dealing with legal documents, you may be able to handle probate yourself. However, if you find these tasks overwhelming or confusing, it may be best to hire an attorney to ensure everything is done correctly.

Additionally, it’s crucial to assess the time and energy you are willing to invest in handling probate. Probate can be a time-consuming process, requiring significant effort and attention to detail. If you have the availability and willingness to commit to the probate process, handling it yourself may be a viable option. However, if you have limited time or other pressing responsibilities, hiring an attorney to handle probate can alleviate some of the burdens and free up your time for other priorities.

To summarize, many ask the question, “Probate: Can you do it yourself or should you seek professional help?” If you want to do the probate yourself, then keep reading. In the next section, we will outline the steps involved in handling probate yourself and provide valuable tips to make the process smoother.

Steps to handling probate yourself

While the specific steps involved in probate may vary depending on the jurisdiction, there are common tasks that typically need to be addressed. Here is an overview of the steps involved in handling probate yourself:

1. Locate and review the deceased’s estate planning documents: The first step is to locate and review the deceased’s will, if there is one, and any other estate planning documents. These documents will provide guidance on how the deceased’s assets should be distributed.

2. Gather necessary paperwork: Next, you will need to gather the necessary paperwork, including death certificates, bank statements, property deeds, and any other relevant documents. These documents will be required to validate the will, identify and value assets, and settle outstanding debts.

3. Notify relevant parties: You will need to notify relevant parties, including beneficiaries, creditors, and government agencies, of the deceased’s passing. This ensures that all interested parties are aware of the probate process and have an opportunity to make any claims or objections.

4. Appraise assets: It’s essential to appraise the deceased’s assets to determine their value. This may involve obtaining professional appraisals for real estate, artwork, or other valuable items. Accurate asset valuation is crucial for determining estate taxes, paying off debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

5. Settle outstanding debts: Before distributing assets to beneficiaries, any outstanding debts of the deceased must be settled. This may involve notifying creditors, reviewing and paying valid claims, and negotiating with creditors to resolve any disputes.

6. Distribute assets to beneficiaries: Once all debts have been settled, you can distribute the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries according to the deceased’s wishes or the laws of intestacy. This may involve transferring property titles, liquidating assets, or setting up trusts for minor beneficiaries. If you distribute assets incorrectly, you can be held personally liable. That’s why when faced with the complexities of distributing assets, it’s only natural to ponder, “Probate: Can you do it yourself or is it better to leave it in the hands of an expert?”

7. File necessary tax returns: Depending on the jurisdiction, you may need to file various tax returns related to the deceased’s estate, including income tax returns, estate tax returns, and gift tax returns. It’s important to comply with all tax obligations to avoid penalties or legal issues.

8. Close the estate: Finally, once all the necessary steps have been completed, you can close the estate. This involves filing a final account and report with the court, providing an overview of the probate process and how the assets were distributed.

While these steps provide a general overview of the probate process, it’s important to note that the specific requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction. It’s always advisable to consult with an attorney or seek professional guidance to ensure that you are following the correct procedures and fulfilling all legal obligations.

In the next section, we will discuss when it may be appropriate to consider hiring a probate attorney.

When to consider hiring a probate attorney

While some may be tempted to handle probate, can you do it yourself without risking mistakes that might cost more in the long run? While handling probate yourself can be a viable option in certain situations, there are instances where it may be more prudent to hire a probate attorney. Here are some situations where hiring an attorney may be beneficial:

1. Complex or contested estates:

If the estate is complex, involving multiple properties, significant financial assets, or legal disputes, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance. An experienced probate attorney can navigate the complexities and handle any challenges that may arise.

2. Lack of time or expertise:

If you have limited time or lack the necessary expertise to handle probate, hiring an attorney can provide peace of mind. An attorney can efficiently manage the process, ensuring that all legal requirements are met and minimizing the risk of errors or delays.

3. Family conflicts:

If there are conflicts or disagreements among family members regarding the distribution of assets or the validity of the will, hiring an attorney can help navigate these disputes and ensure a fair and equitable resolution.

4. Tax considerations:

If the estate is subject to significant tax obligations, such as estate taxes or capital gains taxes, an attorney can provide guidance on tax planning strategies and help minimize the tax burden.

5. Out-of-state assets:

If the deceased owned assets in multiple jurisdictions or if you reside in a different state from where the probate is taking place, hiring an attorney familiar with the relevant laws and procedures can simplify the process and ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

6. Peace of mind:

Hiring an attorney can provide peace of mind during an already challenging and emotional time. Knowing that an experienced professional is handling the probate process can alleviate stress and allow you to focus on other aspects of your life.

It’s important to note that the decision to hire an attorney should be based on your individual circumstances and comfort level. If you are unsure whether you need professional assistance, it’s always advisable to consult with an attorney to evaluate your options.

In the next section, we will compare the costs of handling probate yourself versus hiring an attorney.

Cost comparison: DIY probate vs. hiring an attorney

“Probate: Can you do it yourself?” is a common query among individuals who are looking to minimize costs. In fact, one of the main considerations when deciding whether to handle probate yourself or hire an attorney is the cost involved. Let’s compare the potential costs associated with DIY probate and hiring an attorney.

When handling probate yourself, the main expenses you will incur are court fees, filing fees, and any costs associated with appraisals, publication notices, or other necessary services. These expenses can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the estate but are generally lower than hiring an attorney. DIY probate may also involve additional costs such as travel expenses, postage, or copying fees.

On the other hand, hiring an attorney can be more expensive upfront but may save you money in the long run. Attorneys typically charge a percentage of the estate’s value or an hourly rate for their services. The exact fee structure will vary depending on the attorney and the complexity of the case. While hiring an attorney may seem costly, their expertise can help avoid potential mistakes or legal issues that could result in higher costs or loss of assets.

It’s essential to weigh the potential savings of handling probate yourself against the benefits of professional assistance. If the estate is small and uncomplicated, and you feel confident in your ability to navigate the probate process, handling it yourself may be a cost-effective option. However, if the estate is complex, involves significant assets, or presents any legal challenges, hiring an attorney may be the wiser choice to ensure a smooth and successful probate process.

Considering the potential legal pitfalls of probate, can you do it yourself and ensure all aspects are correctly managed?

In the next section, we will discuss common challenges you may face when handling probate yourself and provide tips on how to overcome them.

Common challenges and how to overcome them

Handling probate yourself can present various challenges, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can overcome them. Here are some common challenges you may face and tips on how to navigate them:

1. Legal complexity: The legal aspects of probate can be complex, involving specific rules, procedures, and deadlines. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations governing probate in your jurisdiction. Consult reliable resources, such as legal guides or websites, and consider seeking professional advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

2. Emotional burden: Dealing with the loss of a loved one while managing the probate process can be emotionally challenging. It’s important to prioritize self-care and seek support from friends, family, or grief counseling services. Taking breaks, practicing self-compassion, and allowing yourself time to grieve can help alleviate some of the emotional burden.

3. Time commitment: Probate can be time-consuming, requiring significant attention to detail and administrative tasks. It’s essential to allocate dedicated time to handle the probate process, ensuring that you can give it the attention it deserves. Create a schedule, set realistic deadlines, and break down tasks into manageable steps to stay organized and on track.

4. Communication and conflicts: Communication with beneficiaries, creditors, and other interested parties is a crucial aspect of probate. Disputes or conflicts may arise, requiring effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Maintain open and transparent communication, listen to all parties’ concerns, and seek mediation or legal advice if necessary

DIY probate resources and tools

Probate is not without its challenges, but with the right strategies, you can overcome them. One of the most common challenges people face when handling probate themselves is the complex legal requirements. Probate involves navigating various laws and regulations, and it can be overwhelming for someone without legal experience. However, there are resources available to help you understand the legal aspects of probate. Online guides, books, and even local workshops can provide you with the necessary knowledge to navigate this aspect of the process.

Another challenge is the paperwork involved in probate. From filing the initial petition to submitting inventory and accounting documents, there is a significant amount of paperwork to keep track of. Organization is key to successfully managing the paperwork. Create a system to keep all documents organized and easily accessible. Consider using online tools or software specifically designed to assist with probate paperwork management. These tools can streamline the process and help you stay organized throughout.

Finally, one of the biggest challenges people face when handling probate themselves is time management. Probate can be a time-consuming process, and it requires attention to detail and prompt action. Deadlines must be met, and delays can cause complications. To overcome this challenge, create a timeline and set reminders for important tasks. Break down the process into manageable steps and allocate specific time slots to work on each task. By staying organized and disciplined with your schedule, you can ensure that you meet all necessary deadlines.


“Probate: Can you do it yourself?” is often the first question that pops up when someone inherits property and needs to understand the legal procedures. If you decide to take on probate yourself, there are numerous resources and tools available to assist you. One valuable resource is online probate guides and tutorials. These guides provide step-by-step instructions, explanations of legal terms, and tips for navigating the process. They can be a valuable source of information and guidance.

In addition to online guides, there are also software and tools specifically designed for DIY probate. These tools can help you manage paperwork, track deadlines, and provide templates for necessary legal documents. Some software even offers features like automatic document generation and electronic filing. Investing in these tools can save you time and help you stay organized throughout the probate process.

Let Us Help You.

You don’t have to do this alone. We can help you administer the probate properly and save time and money in the process. Give us a call today at 602-443-4888.


Founding attorney Paul Deloughery has been an attorney since 1998, became a Certified Family Wealth Advisor. He is also the founder of Sudden Wealth Protection Law.