5 Tips For Will Executors When Working With A Probate Lawyer

5 Tips For Will Executors When Working With A Probate Lawyer

. 4 min read

An executor is identified by the testator, or will creator, as someone who'll carry out their wishes after they pass on. If an executor isn't named in the will, the probate court will step in and appoint one.

Depending on the complexity of the estate and assets, an executor may need the assistance of a probate lawyer to act in different capacities. As such, an executor must work smoothly with legal counsel no matter the type of services required.

If you find yourself being appointed as one, here's how you can ensure a stress-free probate process while working with a lawyer.

What Does An Executor Need To Do?

Before getting into the subject, it's crucial to know what specific roles an executor and probate lawyer play. The former is typically a close family member or relative of the deceased and identified in the will to manage the testator's affairs after they pass on.

As wills are legally binding documents, a heavy load rests on the shoulder of the executor. This includes managing and protecting the deceased loved one's assets and other financial obligations.

Generally, executors are expected to perform the following:

  • Acquire a death certificate and inform government and private institutions about the testator's demise to prevent fraud, among other things.
  • Get and keep a copy of the will and other related documents, such as trusts, which are not subject to the probate process.
  • File notice to inform the public about the impending probate proceedings.
  • Present the will to the probate court and wait for the probate lawyer's confirmation before taking action.
  • Locate all the assets and conduct an inventory.
  • Pay off all financial obligations, such as taxes, unpaid bills, and so on.

Take note that probate applies only to large-scale assets and in instances where the deceased doesn’t have a surviving spouse. An executor must follow specific legal regulations set forth by the probate court. There may be differences in the probate process depending on the location, and it's in an executor's best interests to hire a lawyer, especially in complex situations.

How A Probate Lawyer Can Help

Probate lawyers help ensure that all legal steps are followed in probate. In some cases, they're appointed executors because of their familiarity with the process and capacity to manage complex issues. A legal professional will guide you through the process and file all documents or answer all queries in court.

5 Tips For Working Seamlessly With A Probate Lawyer

If you accept the responsibility to become the executor, you can hire a probate attorney either for full representation or in limited capacities. Getting a lawyer for full representation means less stress for you. However, consider if the amount left in the estate can cover the fees, as attorney services can be hefty. Otherwise, you can take on more tasks to save on costs.

Below are some tips for maintaining smooth relations with your probate lawyer.

1. Pick A Lawyer You Feel Comfortable Working With

Picking a local probate attorney with vast experience is a must. But this shouldn't be the only factor you need to be looking at. More than experience, seek a legal counsel who's capable of providing the best services. It can be challenging to pinpoint, but do note this when meeting your lawyer for the first time. A good lawyer is someone who takes time in answering your questions. Additionally, you should feel comfortable interacting with them.

2. Ask Questions

Expect probate attorneys to have numerous questions when you first meet them. They will likely ask about the testator's assets, financial obligations, beneficiaries, and legal heirs. However, you shouldn't be intimidated by this; make sure to seek clarification on issues you don't know. This is the perfect time to ask them about what is expected of you as an executor, how the probate process goes, and what other legal obligations you might have. Doing so can give you an idea of when you need legal assistance.

3. Provide All The Required Documents

Besides asking for information, the probate lawyer will be asking for several documents to assess your situation and determine the tasks that need to be done. These papers may include a copy of the will, trusts, deeds, tax receipts, insurance policies, and loan agreements, to name a few.

Have them ready before visiting the firm, if possible. If not, make sure you have them on hand when the probate process starts, so you can avoid delays. Moreover, you must furnish all named beneficiaries in the will with a copy of the document so they're clear on what they will receive and when they might have access to it.

4. Inform Your Lawyer About Your Plans

If you've taken on the challenge to administer the estate and go through the probate process, opt for a lawyer who agrees to provide you with limited representation. Some executors hire attorneys only when providing legal responses during the probate process.

For instance, the probate court will issue a requisition or request for an explanation in circumstances where the will is found defective or questionable, or where the application is incomplete, and any other issues that need to be resolved. In addition, you can take this route when you don't have to deal with family members or beneficiaries fighting over the estate. However, don’t perform any action without informing your lawyer, even if you’re hiring them on limited representation.

5. Divide Tasks Clearly

Most probate attorneys bill by the hour. To save on legal fees, ask which tasks you can do yourself and those that need legal expertise. Interactions with the probate court are best left with them, while gathering documents and contacting various institutions, such as banks, insurance companies, and government agencies, can be done by you.

An attorney will also come in handy in circumstances where any beneficiary disputes the will. If you're not aware of how to qualify and locate the testator's assets, you may also ask a lawyer to help you out. The same holds in distributing estate assets to family members or heirs—which can only be done within six months after the grant of administration.

After agreeing on who does what, put it into writing to avoid missing important work. Drafting an agreement with the lawyer allows you to cover all bases while staying efficient.

Bottom Line

The probate process will depend on the complexity or simplicity of the will, the assets, and the heirs involved. For estates scattered in several locations or cases of family disputes, an executor would need the help of a lawyer to settle matters before the probate court.

Hiring the services of a probate lawyer, whether full-time or when needed, requires you to take heed of the tips mentioned earlier. Being chosen as an executor means your loved one trusts that you're capable of fulfilling their wishes without any hitches. It's your legal and personal responsibility to carry them out efficiently.


Part of the expertEasy writing team, Laura is from the UK and has a keen interest in Business, interior design and decor, home improvement and thriftiness in all things around the house and garden.

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