Many people think that they can tackle probate administration without professional help. They believe they understand the estate planning documents their loved one left behind, so they expect that they can move forward with estate administration on their own.
However, fulfilling someone’s remaining financial obligations and carrying out their last wishes can easily lead to complications. You don’t just need to understand the intention of the deceased. You also need to understand state law and how to behave in probate court.
Most people serving as the executor or personal representative of an estate would benefit from partnering with an attorney. What are some of the ways that lawyers help during probate proceedings?
They can clarify the testamentary documents
While you may feel like you understand someone’s last wishes, the true meaning of legal language is sometimes different than how laypeople interpret it. You may need a lawyer to help you review the estate plan and ensure you understand the instructions provided. You will also need help evaluating the document for validity and to ensure that it does not violate state law.
They can protect you from personal financial liability
Did you know that creditors owed money by the deceased party could hold you personally accountable if you distribute assets to beneficiaries of the estate without paying them in full first? You may become personally responsible for both debts and taxes owed by the testator if you improperly distribute estate resources. A lawyer can help ensure that that does not occur.
They can help you avoid conflict
Family members unhappy with their inheritance may be more likely to try to manipulate or pressure you if you don’t have legal support. If they know you have an attorney representing you, they may be less likely to pressure you or challenge you in probate court. If people do challenge how you handled certain matters, a lawyer already helping with the state matters will be able to assist you in the defense of your position.
Most of the time, executors who retain legal assistance can expect the estate to help them cover those costs. Protecting yourself during probate proceedings can be the right choice, especially if you anticipate disputes later.