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Duties of an estate planning and probate paralegal

probate estate paralegal meeting with elderly client

As paralegals take on more responsibility in their job, estate planning and probate paralegals have the chance to immerse themselves in a fascinating and challenging career. You’ll need to have a variety of skills in order to excel in a probate paralegal career.

In this article

How to become a probate paralegal in 4 steps

Earn a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.

female college graduate in cap and gown holding diploma

Paralegal programs are offered by community colleges, universities and business schools specifically providing paralegal training. Entry into the paralegal field is open to a wide range of individuals with diverse educational backgrounds and career changers, so the length of programs and their admission requirements may vary.

A certificate program usually offers only legal training. If general education coursework is not offered in your certificate program, you will need to have completed over 1-1/2 years of college or more, according to the American Bar Association.

Consider an internship.

paralegal intern works with attorney

An internship in a law firm that focuses on estate planning and probate law may open doors later on and should provide you with a practical understanding of the laws of estate planning, wills and probate.

Earn professional certification.

woman looking intensely at laptop screen

Once you earn your degree or certificate, you can apply for professional certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) or the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI). There are several levels of paralegal certification available, but each will require you to pass an exam.

Find a paralegal job.

male paralegal works with couple to sign will and paperwork

Use your internship contacts to network, or apply for jobs at law firms focusing on the probate process. There are many recruiters who can help you in your job search, so look for a recruiter with experience in legal staffing. NALA hosts a job board as does the NFPA, and they don’t require you to be a member to use them, while the AAPI has a members-only career center.

Estate planning and probate paralegal duties

Paralegals in this specialty usually work in law firms for lawyers who focus on estate planning, or they may work in probate courts. Some of the tasks they might do include:

  • Talking with clients
  • Examining their financial situations
  • Preparing drafts of trusts, wills, or related documents
  • Preparing probate forms
  • Meeting with clients whose relative has died
  • Helping collect and liquidate the deceased’s assets
  • Assessing creditors’ claims
  • Preparing estate tax returns

You’ll also communicate with clients on the progress of the case, and assist with other documents or paperwork. Writing and communication skills are beneficial, as is the ability to handle the accounting of estate taxes.

Needed education

To become a probate or estate planning paralegal, one must first gain entry into the paralegal profession. You have several program options:

  • Earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies
  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies
  • Earn a paralegal post-degree certification

A post-degree certification may require a related bachelor’s degree, but in some cases may only require a high school degree. A certificate program is a shorter, more intensive training period. Additional courses in the specialized areas of estate planning and probate would further prepare a paralegal for this specialty, as well as an internship while completing a paralegal studies program.

Salary and job outlook

There’s positive news on the job search for estate planning paralegals. The BLS projects job growth at 4.2%, much faster than average for all occupations, through 2032. There will be particularly high demand for paralegals with an estate planning specialty, and with the rapidly expanding aging population (baby boomers), the need for estate planning should grow as well.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

National data

Median Salary: $59,200

Projected job growth: 4.2%

10th Percentile: $37,690

25th Percentile: $46,850

75th Percentile: $75,560

90th Percentile: $94,960

Projected job growth: 4.2%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $48,620 $31,200 $74,640
Alaska $61,490 $43,110 $94,120
Arizona $59,050 $35,310 $84,100
Arkansas N/A N/A N/A
California $69,790 $46,730 $109,340
Colorado $65,010 $45,510 $99,060
Connecticut $63,490 $46,350 $91,590
Delaware $59,660 $41,350 $99,100
District of Columbia $87,610 $56,780 $124,650
Florida $52,190 $37,370 $78,440
Georgia $51,420 $29,820 $87,660
Hawaii $58,630 $42,270 $82,310
Idaho $48,500 $27,100 $66,940
Illinois $60,370 $38,060 $97,100
Indiana $47,710 $34,820 $81,840
Iowa $52,660 $38,260 $79,260
Kansas $48,490 $34,710 $79,630
Kentucky $48,810 $35,620 $73,780
Louisiana $50,310 $35,380 $75,100
Maine $54,710 $46,550 $71,460
Maryland $58,760 $39,250 $88,670
Massachusetts $63,360 $40,760 $103,000
Michigan $58,780 $38,500 $81,560
Minnesota $60,380 $39,790 $94,910
Mississippi $43,590 $31,990 $63,840
Missouri $55,410 $36,920 $79,830
Montana $55,270 $41,900 $79,520
Nebraska $50,610 $38,880 $79,600
Nevada $61,180 $41,600 $89,690
New Hampshire $50,960 $37,890 $81,100
New Jersey $61,040 $38,650 $96,480
New Mexico $48,320 $37,660 $70,010
New York $62,730 $45,720 $103,890
North Carolina $51,340 $35,920 $81,310
North Dakota $48,740 $39,360 $75,500
Ohio $50,580 $36,700 $78,490
Oklahoma $48,490 $34,080 $74,590
Oregon $63,980 $46,090 $86,420
Pennsylvania $62,080 $39,460 $92,560
Rhode Island N/A N/A N/A
South Carolina $48,190 $37,300 $65,960
South Dakota $54,100 $44,300 $68,120
Tennessee $48,420 $34,330 $82,600
Texas $56,310 $36,300 $94,540
Utah $52,820 $35,660 $78,830
Vermont $60,560 $48,020 $74,930
Virginia $59,500 $35,530 $83,650
Washington $69,260 $47,960 $106,510
West Virginia $47,990 $28,760 $77,230
Wisconsin $49,970 $37,460 $78,420
Wyoming $52,000 $36,110 $65,150

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.