If you become the executor of someone’s California estate, you likely will wonder if you should hire an attorney to help you go through the probate process. As with so many other yes-or-no decisions, the answer is: it depends. Given that probate is the legal process by which an estate gets settled, whether or not you need an attorney depends on the complexity of the estate and the issues it, and you as its executor, face.
LegacyNavigator.com recommends that you hire a probate attorney in the event one of the following three situations presents itself:
- A contract situation
- A conflict situation
- A court intervention situation
Depending on the wishes and directions of the deceased person whose estate you are administering, it, and you, may face one or more situations in which a contract or other legal document must be drafted and executed. For instance, if the deceased owned a sole proprietorship business and left it to his or her three children, you likely will need to hire an attorney to draft the new business partnership agreement. You also likely will need an attorney if one of the children wishes to sell his or share of the business to one or more of his or her siblings.
While most estates go through probate without any major hitches, others are fraught with family fights and struggles. You definitely will need to hire an attorney to represent the estate if someone challenges the validity of the deceased’s will. Will challenges can be, and usually are, legal proceedings that entail highly-charged emotions on the part of all family members involved. The estate’s attorney you hire will represent the interests of the estate and the will upon which it is based.
Obviously the court itself must hear a will challenge, but this is not the only situation in which it may need to intervene. For instance, if you administer an estate whose assets are insufficient to pay all its bills, taxes, administrative expenses, etc., you will need to hire an attorney to defend the estate, and you as its executor, against whatever claims anyone may make that the estate cannot pay.
Keep in mind that the estate itself pays the fees of any attorney you hire to represent it, plus whatever other legal expenses may be involved. You do not have to pay these fees and expenses yourself.
This is educational information only and not legal advice.