Serving as an executor requires a commitment of time, ideally, beginning when a will is made and the role accepted. Preparatory conversations about intentions and pragmatics, such as account information, will be a gift down the road. During the probate process, executors may find the services of a probate lawyer helpful.
Routine But Time Consuming
Ordinarily, probate is nothing to be afraid of: it is simply the legal, public process that settles our affairs when we die. Most states offer expedited processes depending upon the level of assets involved. When families are communicating and have had a chance to get organized, probate generally proceeds smoothly. Nonetheless, executors are likely to find themselves busy with their duties, and it is typical for the probate process to take some time—a year or so is fairly common. As time goes by, it’s critical for executors to keep communications flowing to beneficiaries, creditors, and the court. Silence can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts and even probate litigation. To avoid complications and delays, the services of an experienced probate lawyer can really come in handy. As RMO Lawyers explain:
When a person passes away, their assets must be disbursed in a manner consistent with state laws and following the directions they put forth when they were alive, as stated in their will. A probate lawyer guides the executor of will or beneficiaries of an estate through the probate process: From identifying estate assets and beneficiaries to distributing assets and inheritances. A probate lawyer is a state licensed attorney who works with the executors and the beneficiaries of an estate to settle the affairs of the decedent … .A probate lawyer is also known as an estate attorney and will be involved in different ways depending on the particular circumstances of that estate. Their involvement will depend on the value of the decedent’s assets and whether or not they had a last will and testament at the time they passed away.
Attorney Richard Humiston of Frantz Ward points out that the ability of an executor to commit time and follow through with duties is critical for the smooth closure of an estate: “The key to being a good Executor is taking the duties it entails seriously. An effective Executor understands that their actions can have a significant impact on how quickly and accurately the estate is administered. This individual must be willing to be diligent in the identification and distribution of assets, and timely in their interaction with the Court.” Some specific ways in which probate lawyers may be of help to executors include:
- Collecting proceeds from life insurance policies
- Identifying and securing estate assets
- Obtaining appraisals for the decedent’s real property
- Assisting in the payment of bills and debts
- Preparing and filing all documents required by a probate court
- Determining if any estate or inheritance taxes are due, and making sure those debts are satisfied
- Resolving income tax issues
- Managing the estate checking account
- Transferring assets in the decedent’s name to the appropriate beneficiaries
- Making a final disbursement of assets to beneficiaries after all bills and taxes have been paid
Good To Know: Executor Bonds?
As fiduciaries, executors have the legal obligation to ensure compliance with the state probate process. An executor bond may be required, to guarantee duties will be carried out in accordance with the law. As a leading national provider of many types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety makes it easy and efficient to obtain an executor bond. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even before leaving probate court or the law office.
It’s helpful to know that every state has specific protocols–and nomenclature–for the probate process. In New York State, for example, the process of bringing the affairs of a “decedent” to closure is overseen by the county Surrogate’s Court. Asset distribution is determined by the will, when there is one, and by the laws of intestacy when there is not. In either case, a personal representative of the decedent must follow the protocols of the Surrogate’s Court.
Regardless of terminology particulars, individuals designated for estate administration have significant duties, and accordingly, are considered fiduciaries: they are legally obligated to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Given the responsibilities inherent in estate administration, bonds, referred to as surrogate, probate, administrator, personal representative or executor bonds are often required. Essentially, these fiduciary bonds act as a guarantee that the affairs of the estate will be carried out in good faith and in accordance with the law. Whenever and wherever the court requires a bond, obtain it quickly and easily via Colonial Surety’s online bond service. Our digital bonds include: surrogate, probate, administrator, personal representative and executor bonds.
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