Should Executors Hire Probate Attorneys?

If you have been appointed as an executor of an estate, you may be wondering if you really need a probate attorney. A job well done as an executor means you need to be good at math, and you must pay meticulous attention to detail.

If you are the main beneficiary of the estate, and the estate is simple and consists mainly of a house, life insurance and bank accounts, it may be rather straightforward and you could probably handle the paperwork if you’re up for the job.

On the other hand, if there are a lot of debts and/or different types of assets, and the possibility of a will contest or arguments among the beneficiaries, you would be well-served by hiring a probate attorney.

Two Ways a Lawyer Can Help

Basically, there are two ways that an executor can seek help from a probate attorney.

  • The executor can hire the probate lawyer to coach them by answering all of their legal questions. The attorney may look over documents to ensure accuracy, prepare estate tax returns and conduct some research.
  • The executor who does not have the time, desire, or ability to settle the estate can have the attorney handle the entire case for them. However, the executor still has to make decisions about how to proceed, with the attorney’s advice.

If you are considering handling the probate case on your own, you can ask the probate court to answer basic questions, but court clerks are prohibited from giving anything that can be construed as “legal advice.”

If you have a simple estate, you can read books about probate, but generally, probate courts strongly urge executors to seek professional representation from a probate attorney, especially because executors are held to the highest standards of “fiduciary duty” and can be held liable if they cause harm to an estate.

If you need to locate a probate attorney near you, we encourage you to scroll through our directory.

Categories: Probate, Will Contests