Why the Executor or Administrator of an Estate May Need an Attorney
Serving an administrative role in handling an estate is an important duty. It also carries several legal obligations that can lead to trouble if you don't handle them carefully. Let's look at a few reasons why you might want to hire an estate administration attorney.
Civil Liability Risks
When someone assumes the job of executor or administrator of an estate, they also accept a role as a fiduciary. In the context of an estate, the fiduciary obligation means the administrator must make a good-faith effort to protect the financial interests of the beneficiaries. Notably, beneficiaries have the right to sue the administrator to recover damages.
Suppose the centerpiece of an estate was a very large house. However, the house's foundation wasn't in the greatest condition. If the foundation fails during the estate process, the administrator is supposed to use funds from the estate to address the problem. By failing to fix the problem, the administrator might be liable for damages to the beneficiaries if the house sells for significantly less than expected.
Documentation and Bookkeeping
At the other end of the spectrum, an administrator also has to file a lot of paperwork with the court. They have to account for where the money and assets went. Also, they have to show the court their efforts to contact beneficiaries, especially if they couldn't find a particular one.
You will need to submit a lot of paperwork to the court. An estate administration attorney can help you determine which forms are necessary. Likewise, a lawyer can help you fill the paperwork out and present the bookkeeping to the court.
Even in the tamest of estates, judges will have questions about the administration. The court will at least want to know how the process is going. Also, the judge may have questions about measures taken to enact the will, interpret the grantor's intent, and look out for the interests of the beneficiaries. Whenever you interact with the court, it's wise to have an estate administration attorney walk you through the answers before you respond to questions.
Dealing With Beneficiaries
An executor or administrator needs to be above reproach whenever they deal with beneficiaries. You don't want to give the impression you don't care about their concerns, for example. Likewise, you want to assure all beneficiaries that you're working hard on their behalf. An estate administration attorney can advise you about how to address beneficiaries' needs and concerns.
Be sure to contact an estate administration attorney for more information about this process.