The death of a loved one is usually followed by a period of heightened emotions. Finding out that you were named as the Executor of the decedent’s estate can add additional stress during an already trying time. One of the first things you will need to do is to initiate the probate of the estate. That may have you wondering if you need an attorney to help you. A Bowie probate attorney at Sinclair Prosser Gasior helps you decide if you need an attorney to help you if you are the Executor of an estate.
Understanding the Probate Process
If you have never been through the probate process before, you need to have an overall idea of what that process involves before you can decide if you need an attorney to help you. A decedent’s estate consists of all assets, both tangible and intangible, owned by the decedent at the time of death. Probate is the legal process by which those assets are identified, located, valued, and eventually distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate. If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament, the individual named as the Executor in that Will is responsible for overseeing the probate process and the terms of the Will are used to determine how the estate assets are distributed. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), someone typically volunteers to be the Personal Representative and oversee the probate of the estate and the state intestate succession laws dictate how estate assets are distributed.
Although the probate process is unique for every estate, there are some common steps in the process, such as:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing all estate assets.
- Notifying creditors of the estate that probate is underway and reviewing claims submitted by those creditors.
- Identifying, locating, and notifying beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate that the estate is being probated.
- Defending any challenges to the Will or litigating any claims made by creditors that were denied.
- Calculating any paying federal (and state, if applicable) gift and estate taxes
- Effectuating the legal transfer of the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me?
If you were named as the Executor of the estate, one of the first decisions you will need to make is whether to retain an attorney to assist you. You are not legally required to be represented by an attorney and there are estates where the assistance of an attorney is not absolutely necessary. Most often, however, it is in your best interest to consult with, and likely hire, an experienced probate attorney to help you probate the estate. To help you decide, consider the following questions. If the answer to any of the questions is “yes” you should at least consult with an attorney before moving forward with the probate of your father’s estate:
- Did the decedent own significant and/or complex assets?
- Are there heirs of the estate that you do not know and/or need to locate?
- Do you anticipate that the debts of the estate will exceed the assets?
- Do you have reason to believe someone will challenge the validity of that Will?
- Do you anticipate bickering amongst the beneficiaries?
- Did the decedent own assets outside of the United States?
- Did the decedent own a business?
- Is the estate located in a jurisdiction other than where you live?
Contact a Bowie Probate Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about serving as the Executor of an estate, contact an experienced Bowie probate attorney at Sinclair Prosser Gasior by calling (410) 573-4818 to schedule an appointment.