Although it is not always necessary for an executor of an estate to hire a probate attorney, especially with an estate that is simple and straight forward, there are situations where you need to hire an attorney to give you advice, or more likely, to take the reigns of the probate process. If you find yourself an executor of an estate, the following situations are three red flags that may necessitate a call to a good probate lawyer.
The assets of the deceased person are complex
In cases where the deceased person had assets such as a house, bank accounts and basic investments such as stocks and bonds, or household items, determining the value of these assets, as well as dispersing them to the heirs, is usually simple. But if the assets are complicated by partnerships, such as the ones found in business, determining value and even selling the deceased's share can be complex.
Family members are fighting over the inheritance
Even with a clearly drawn up will, family members can become combative. Certain things they believe should have been bequeathed to them were left to another. Often, it is not a specific item, but the share of the total assets that is thought to be too little by one or more family members. The thing to remember is that any will can be contested, and when family members are hostile to each other, the chances of this happening increase. If you observe this behavior in family members, it is best to contact an attorney immediately to have a head start in legal issues about the will.
The debts of the deceased are high relative to the assets
This can complicate the probate process quickly. Some debts may need to be paid from the sale of assets while others may be avoided, especially a debt that was unsecured. To make matters more complex, if the deceased owed more than he or she was worth at the time of their death, it becomes a question of who gets paid and how much. Before you consider paying anyone, you need to contact a probate attorney.
If this is your first experience as an executor of an estate, take notice of the above situations, and don't hesitate to contact a probate lawyer. However, even if you have gone through the process before, and you never needed the assistance of a probate attorney, taking quick action at the first sign of a problem can keep the process from getting out of control.