Estate Planning and Probate Paralegal
Types of Paralegals
The daily tasks performed by the paralegal involved with estate planning and probate will often differ. One day a paralegal may assist at a tax audit, and the next, sit with an emotional family member going over a loved one’s final wishes. Probate paralegals will work with many different people from all walks of life in many different situations. Being comfortable with all people, especially under pressure or in a tense moment is important.
One primary function of the employing law firm is working with clients on estate planning. The estate includes all assets of the client such as real estate, stocks, bonds, and valuable personal items. The paralegal will need to familiarize themselves with processes dealing with estate planning including disposition and valuation of assets.
The other main function of the law firm is dealing with probate. Many times clients wish to have an objective party handle their estate. In these instances, upon a client’s death, the attorney may act as trustee over the estate. Other times, they will carry out the instructions in a Last Will and Testament. In either case, the paralegal will have to know how to go through the court process. Handling of documents for court probate appearances, trusts, and probate taxes, are also an important part of the paralegals duties.
Skills needed to become an Estate Planning and Probate Paralegal
Many employers see an ideal candidate as one with experience in estate planning and probate. They may require a degree or certificate as a paralegal. Most also look for employees who are proficient in computer skills and office software including proprietary software unique to the legal industry.
Having strong communication skills is important. The paralegal will communicate with clients, family members, trustees, tax auditors, and other attorneys, and professionals. The nature of this job also requires a strong attention to detail as the paralegal works with wills, probate papers, tax forms, and many other financial documents, contracts, and directives.
A good paralegal will be self-motivated. While they have an attorney who is responsible for their actions, they are often working without direct oversight. They must be able to manage their time well, work proactively, and be aware of any issues that need to be brought to the attorney’s attention.
The law has yet to define a paralegal’s educational requites. Without a mandate, education is left to a student’s own discretion. Many students realize that they will need to have a formal education in order to gain employment. As such, students will seek certification as a paralegal. Some will opt for a full degree program in law such as an associate’s or bachelor’s in paralegal studies.
The courses are designed to prepare the paralegal to become a valuable asset to the employing law firm. They will take classes teaching general legal subjects as well as courses that are specific to estate planning and probate. If a paralegal knows they want to work in a firm that specializes in estate planning and probate, they will have the opportunity to study in this field during school.
There are many different educational opportunities available to the student. Some may choose a traditional college, while others will take advantage of the Internet and go to school online. Both options will also require the student to partake in some form of internship or field study. This will not only bolster a student’s knowledge, it will also give them practical hands-on experience.
Salary and Career Outlook
The salary for an entry-level estate and probate paralegal may be between $37,690 and $46,850 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is plenty of room for advancement in this career. The BLS records the top salaries between $75,560 and $94,960. With many employers, extra perks are also part of the complete employment package, including vacation, sick pay, and bonuses. The outlook for jobs as a paralegal remains steady over the next several years as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Paralegals and Legal Assistants reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.