Estate Administration and Probate
Estate administration is what happens during the probate process. Probate can be thought of as the gateway to estate administration. It is the necessary legal process that must unfold in order for the executor to have the ability to perform their own tasks as required by the will and law. Estate administration is the nuts and bolts of handling the actual estate and distributing the assets.
There are processes and rules that must be followed to administer the estate properly. Any mistakes or violations of these rules can cause both financial losses and delays. Beneficiaries cannot get the money promised to them by a will until the estate administration process is complete. An experienced probate attorney can help this process go more smoothly and by the book.
When it comes to estate administration, the executor owes fiduciary duties to the estate. Fiduciary duty is a legal term for the requirement that the executor must put the estate’s interests ahead of their own. Executors may need legal advice to ensure that they are following their obligations. At the same time, errors may also need the help of an attorney if they suspect that the executor is acting improperly.
What Happens During the Estate Administration Process
The following steps need to happen in probate before the decedent’s estate can be fully wound up and closed:
- All assets of the decedent must be collected and inventoried.
- The decedent’s debts, such as taxes and creditor claims, must be paid.
- Certain assets may be liquidated (for example, selling real estate).
- The assets of the estate are then distributed in accordance with the terms of the will.
Challenges During the Estate Administration Process
There are things that may go wrong in the probate process that can both pose legal challenges and make the process last longer, including:
- Disputes over the validity of debts claimed by creditors
- Will contests filed by interested parties
- Mistakes made in the paperwork filed with the court
- The discovery that a loved one died without a will
The executor is usually better off hiring a probate attorney for advice, especially if the estate is complex. If there are a lot of assets or a multitude of creditor claims, the executor will have more work. At the same time, they also owe a fiduciary duty to the estate that they must observe at all times. An estate administration lawyer will help them make the judgment calls necessary to uphold their duties faithfully.
Why You Need an Estate Administration Lawyer
Ways in which an estate administration lawyer can help your family include:
- Preparing the paperwork to be filed with the court
- Assisting in resolving disputes among the heirs (if there is probate litigation, each party will need their own attorney)
- Helping a family member to be named as an executor if someone dies without a will
- Inventorying and securing the decedent’s estate (if the executor seeks help with this task)
- Determining whether certain debts are valid and advising on their payment
- Resolving disputes when an executor is accused of violating their duties to the estate
The function of an estate administration lawyer depends on whether there is a will. If there were a will, the attorney usually acts in a consultative function (except when preparing paperwork), assisting the estate’s executor. They may also be called upon by interested parties who want their legal interests protected.
In the end, an estate administration lawyer will make your family’s job easier. There are many details that you may not want to handle. Not only will an estate administration lawyer give you advice, but they can also work with you to execute the actual process, relieving some of your burden and stress.
Does the executor of a will get paid?
The executor can be paid a reasonable amount of money for their services unless they are specifically prohibited from doing so by the terms of the will or the court.
How does an estate administration lawyer get paid?
An estate administration lawyer will usually charge on an hourly basis for their services.
Can an attorney serve as the executor of an estate?
Yes. In some cases, the will may designate the attorney as the one who will act as the executor. Then, the attorney may receive a percentage of the estate assets for their services.