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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 14.1%, much faster than average for all occupations, through 2031. 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: $56,230

Projected job growth: 14.1%

10th Percentile: $36,410

25th Percentile: $45,390

75th Percentile: $72,750

90th Percentile: $88,640

Projected job growth: 14.1%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $46,990 $29,010 $72,760
Alaska $61,680 $47,040 $86,650
Arizona $49,390 $30,570 $77,630
Arkansas $36,820 $28,510 $61,270
California $63,370 $39,310 $100,730
Colorado $60,360 $37,330 $96,720
Connecticut $59,700 $45,200 $92,820
Delaware $58,500 $36,300 $93,270
District of Columbia $77,840 $47,040 $121,050
Florida $48,820 $35,080 $75,720
Georgia $47,360 $29,920 $81,620
Hawaii $49,870 $38,580 $80,320
Idaho $47,040 $35,910 $61,390
Illinois $58,510 $36,690 $92,200
Indiana $46,910 $30,320 $67,270
Iowa $47,430 $35,940 $74,700
Kansas $46,400 $28,930 $70,120
Kentucky $46,390 $29,310 $62,850
Louisiana $46,720 $29,160 $66,680
Maine $47,280 $38,280 $61,840
Maryland $59,650 $36,970 $81,400
Massachusetts $61,410 $37,110 $100,860
Michigan $49,260 $36,680 $78,500
Minnesota $60,000 $37,200 $92,240
Mississippi $37,530 $29,120 $61,390
Missouri $48,730 $29,550 $77,230
Montana $46,980 $36,900 $62,700
Nebraska $48,340 $36,440 $76,600
Nevada $59,590 $37,420 $76,090
New Hampshire $58,800 $37,880 $78,110
New Jersey $60,880 $41,780 $97,680
New Mexico $46,770 $35,930 $61,140
New York $60,030 $37,020 $97,470
North Carolina $46,990 $29,910 $74,780
North Dakota $47,290 $29,800 $76,200
Ohio $46,940 $30,140 $75,720
Oklahoma $46,980 $28,920 $75,690
Oregon $60,640 $36,820 $99,270
Pennsylvania $59,610 $37,170 $87,030
Rhode Island $58,490 $36,840 $97,170
South Carolina $43,200 $31,590 $62,280
South Dakota $47,510 $36,890 $67,660
Tennessee $46,770 $29,730 $75,890
Texas $49,050 $35,450 $79,050
Utah $50,070 $29,120 $79,910
Vermont $49,260 $36,420 $76,330
Virginia $48,370 $30,600 $82,450
Washington $64,160 $46,910 $102,720
West Virginia $46,280 $28,640 $75,720
Wisconsin $47,510 $36,520 $73,700
Wyoming $46,340 $29,120 $60,060

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. 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.