There is no precise definition of attorney specialties so there may be no difference at all. If there is a difference, an estate attorney focuses on planning and paperwork and a probate attorney goes to court.
Usually estate planning involves drafting wills and trusts for people while they are alive. Probate generally involves handling an estate after death or going to court to have a conservator or guardian appointed for an incompetent person. Many attorneys handle all of these issues.
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I would say that there is no practical difference between the two, in most cases. A probate attorney works with probate estates and administration of the same.
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I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration.
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These are terms usually used by the client, not the attorney, to describe what the attorney is working on for that client. An attorney who has expertise in preparing estate planning documents, but who is handling the probate administration for a particular client, might be called a probate attorney by that client, but another client for whom he is handling a lease might be called his real estate attorney. In looking for an attorney, disregard labels, and examine the experience instead.
This comment does not create an attorney-client relationship. The law and its application by the courts is constantly evolving and changing. This discussion is not to be taken as a definitive guide, and should not be relied upon to determine all fact situations. Each set of facts must be examined separately with the current case and statutory law analyzed and applied accordingly.
You are describing the particular work, not the lawyer. The "estate" work usually refers to the drafting of wills, trusts and the like. Probate is the name of the court action for the appointment of a personal representative and the administration of a decedent's estate. Usually a lawyer that practices in this area of law does both.
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