If you recently found out that you were named as the executor of an estate, or you recently volunteered to be the personal representative of an estate, you may find that the job is much more time-consuming and complex than you realized. For this reason, most executors/PRs retain the services of an estate planning attorney to assist them throughout the probate process. People often ask us at Purcell and Amen if we do probates. Yes, we certainly do assist people through the probate process.
The probate process can be long and complex. Even the average estate without complex assets typically takes over six months to probate. If the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament, the person named as the executor in the Will is charged with overseeing the probate process. If the decedent died intestate, or without leaving behind a valid Will a family member or loved one usually volunteers to be the personal representative, or PR. The PR has the same duties and responsibilities as an executor. The executor/PR duties and responsibilities are numerous, starting with preparing the documents needed to open the probate of the estate with the appropriate court. Most people do not have the background or knowledge needed to understand the legal issues involved in the probate of an estate which is why an executor/PR usually turns to an estate planning attorney for assistance.
Hiring an estate planning attorney to assist during the probate process allows you, as the executor/PR, to focus on the more practical aspects of probate while your attorney can handle the legal aspects. As Executor/PR you will need to locate and value of the estate property, for example. You will then need to manage all of that property throughout the probate of the estate. This alone can be very time consuming if the estate includes real property or valuable investments.
If the estate becomes involved in litigation you will also be glad you have an estate planning attorney working with you. If, for instance, a Will contest is filed or a creditor of the estate appeals a denial of a claim you will need to defend the estate throughout the litigation. Unless you are an attorney yourself this can be intimidating to say the least. Knowing that you have legal counsel working with you during the probate process gives you peace of mind and ensures that a costly mistake is not made.