To serve as an executor, either the will must list you as such or a court of law must appoint you to the position. In this role, you have the responsibility of handling all aspects of the deceased person’s will, such as paying bills, disposing of property, maintaining property until a settlement on the estate is reached, distributing assets, paying taxes, and appearing in court on behalf of the estate. Typically, an executor is an immediate family member, but this is not mandatory.
Although many wills are straightforward and relatively easy to handle, some are quite complex. Keep in mind that if you are appointed the executor, you can decline the position, but if you choose to move forward, you want to be prepared to deal with numerous legal issues. For that reason, it is in your best interest to hire a reputable attorney who can answer questions, guide you through the process, and provide assistance within and outside of the court system.
Unfortunately, disputes over assets of a loved one are common, even among close family members. This coupled with tax liability can make getting through the process on your own extremely difficult. An attorney is someone you can turn to for answers or guidance as well as someone who can take control over the entire probate process.
Benefits of Working with an Attorney
Because of the many duties involved when serving as an executor, finding a qualified lawyer is highly recommended. After all, as an executor, you play a critical role that affects the lives of other people. In addition to following the wishes of the deceased, you want to make sure everything is legal. Following are some of the ways in which an attorney can assist you while you are serving as an executor.
- Legal Documents – Explain certain legal documents that determine rules and procedures that apply to the management and distribution of the estate.
- Assets – Determine specific assets included in the estate since sometimes directions for things like investment accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts are not outlined in full.
- Heirs – Identify beneficiaries of the estate, as well as determine provisions in the event one of the heirs passes away during the probate process.
- Creditors – Ensure outstanding bills, as well as taxes owed by the deceased, are paid from the estate so nothing is overlooked that could leave you liable.
- Process – Follow a very specific process associated with wills and estates, giving you peace of mind that assets in all states are identified and unique situations are handled appropriately.
The Bottom Line
By hiring a qualified attorney, there is no risk of something going wrong. Instead, there is protection for deceased as well as beneficiaries and you. Regardless of how large the estate is, by working with a reputable attorney, the probate process becomes easier and less stressful.