If you've been named Executor in someone's Will, it's a good idea to hire a lawyer to represent you and the estate. Initially, the lawyer files the Will and the probate petition with the Court to appoint someone as the Executor (now called the "Personal Representative" or "PR"). The lawyer's job is also to handle all other required proceedings in court. For example, the lawyer may file or defend a Will contest to decide who becomes PR. The lawyer deals with creditors’ claims and also gives notice to creditors, and heirs, beneficiaries, and other people who are entitled to receive notice of the probate.
After all the various administrative tasks have been completed, the lawyer prepares and files either a Declaration of Completion or a Petition for Final Distribution. Both of these documents report to the Court what the PR has done during their term of administration. The final probate pleadings account to the heirs for the assets and money that have come into the personal representative’s hands.
The lawyer may further deal with the lawyer handling an ancillary probate if any property is owned in another state. Non-probate issues can also arise which require legal attention, like getting, receiving, or obtaining payment of life insurance and dealing with things like payment of annuities.
One of the purposes of lawyer is to advise the PR regarding his or her legal duties and make sure those duties are carried out. A PR is a fiduciary to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate. This means that the PR has a duty of care to those people and is required to set aside his or her personal interests in favor of the beneficiaries.
One primary task that must be done is preparing and filing a full and final account of what the PR has done during their term as PR. This includes information about bank accounts and deposits, amounts received, bills paid, dispositions of stocks and bonds including gains and losses on sales, sales of securities and receipts of dividends or losses on the sales. Accountings can become quite complicated. If nothing else, most PRs eventually use a lawyer to perform the accounting function at least.
Often, in more complicated estates, an accounting firm that is familiar with court accounting requirements is hired to do the actual accounting. The lawyer receives and reviews the accounting and drafts a petition for final distribution and accounting. This way, the heirs are informed regarding what went on in the estate, and how much each is entitled to.
Probating an estate can be difficult and complicated. If a friend or loved one has passed away and named you as their Executor, we can help make the probate administration process as painless for you as possible. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment to see how we can help.