Differences between estate lawyers, trust lawyers, and probate lawyers

There are many occasions in life when legal expertise is invaluable. One example is estate planning, when an individual may wish to write their will, establish a trust, or handle probate proceedings after the death of a loved one. These situations tend to be emotionally sensitive, and having a compassionate legal professional by your side can help you to understand the complexities of the situation and reach a favorable outcome

Choosing the right legal professional is essential. All attorneys focus on a particular area of law, and understanding the distinctions between them can help you select the attorney that is best suited to your particular needs. Here is a look at the differences between estate lawyers, trust lawyers and probate lawyers to help you select the right lawyer for your needs.

Estate lawyers

Sometimes referred to as estate planning attorneys, estate lawyers are responsible for creating comprehensive plans for individuals and families to help them document their assets and plan for their distribution in the event of their incapacity or death.

The primary focus of an estate lawyer is creating legally binding documents that specify the wishes and preferences of their clients regarding their estate, which may include documenting their assets, debts and guardianship arrangements [1].

Estate lawyers typically write wills, trusts, powers of attorney and healthcare directives. In addition to carrying out their clients’ wishes, they will work with them to minimize their tax liabilities and maximize the distribution of their assets to their selected beneficiaries. They will work closely with their clients to understand their unique personal and professional circumstances and tailor their advice to deliver maximum benefit.

Estate lawyers will also assist their clients in implementing strategies aimed at preserving their wealth and protecting their assets from legal disputes or potential creditors. They are well versed on financial laws and regulations, and this enables them to help their clients navigate the complex process of estate planning.

Trust Lawyers

Trust lawyers, as their title suggests, create, administer and manage trusts on behalf of their clients. A trust is a legal arrangement in which trustees hold assets on behalf of an individual or set of nominated beneficiaries, as specified by the client in their trust document [2]. Trusts offer many benefits for certain types of clients, including greater protection of their assets and wealth, increased privacy, and a more flexible approach to estate planning.

Trust lawyers form a close working relationship with their clients to establish trusts that align with their particular goals and objectives. They will ensure that a client’s wishes and preferences are recorded in a legally compliant manner, assist with the selection of appropriate trustees, and define the rights and responsibilities of their chosen beneficiaries.

Trust lawyers are also required to provide ongoing guidance to their clients and trustees to ensure that all parties understand their fiduciary duties and obligations in accordance with the trust agreement. They will involve themselves in disputes among beneficiaries and support them in achieving a satisfactory resolution, modify trust provisions as required, and help their clients understand and address the tax implications of their decisions.

Probate Lawyers

Probate lawyers handle the legal and emotional sensitivities that are associated with validating a deceased person’s will and guiding their family through the probate process. Probate is the legal procedure in which the deceased’s debts are settled and their assets are distributed in accordance with their will or intestacy laws, depending on what applies in any given situation.

During probate, an executor will be appointed. The probate lawyer will represent them while they gather and inventory the deceased’s assets, notify their creditors of their passing, pay their outstanding debts and taxes, and distribute their remaining wealth and assets to their beneficiaries.

Probate lawyers advocate on behalf of their clients in probate court proceedings and are particularly valuable when a will is contested or the deceased has a substantial sum of assets, ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are upheld and that their estate is settled fairly and efficiently.

The roles of estate lawyers, trust lawyers and probate lawyers are interconnected in the field of estate planning and administration, but their responsibilities differ based on their particular area of speciality. One thing that they all have in common is the ability to craft and enact comprehensive plans that are tailored to the exact needs of their client, recognizing their individual circumstances and providing advice to help them achieve the most advantageous outcome.

To discuss your estate planning needs with a Colorado law firm that is both experienced and understanding, contact the team at Lewis & Matthews, P.C. today. We look forward to helping you to make informed decisions, safeguard your legacy, and provide for your loved ones.


[1] https://www.cobar.org/Portals/COBAR/Repository/Front%20Desk/Brochures/Wills%20in%20Colorado%20Flyer.pdf?ver=2020-11-03-164151-127
[2] https://www.cobar.org/Portals/COBAR/Repository/publicDocs/Living%20Trusts_web.pdf?ver=2012-07-27-130054-977