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The lawyer is correct. There are not assets in your mother's name alone so there is no need to probate the Will.
What you have to do is pay any debts and taxes your mother owes and then you will deal with the money that is left over.
If your sister owes money to the estate because she took money from the savings account that would come off what she is going to get as will the $12,000. If she owes more than she will be getting then she has to pay the estate back and if she will not then you can sue her on behalf of the estate.
Does that help?
You are very welcome. I am sorry for your loss and for this difficult situation.