There are few things in life more difficult to endure than the death of a loved one. In the aftermath of any death, surviving family members are left to cope with their grief and loss. However, many of us forget about the stress that can be caused by the loss of a loved one. That stress can be magnified for family members who have been asked to serve as the executor of a relative’s will, as they are left to deal with the complex probate process even as they strive to recover from their own grief. If you’ve been named as the executor of a departed loved one’s will, it’s important that you know that you can reduce that stress by using the professional probate services that an experienced probate attorney can provide.
The Stress of Probate
The probate process is a necessary part of settling any estate in which assets don’t pass automatically to heirs via trusts, joint tenancy, or other techniques. That makes it essential for ensuring that assets are protected, decedents’ wishes are respected, and fraud and other nefarious estate-related actions are avoided. To complete probate, executors have a whole host of duties that must be performed as they work to settle the deceased’s affairs so that the court can formally close the estate.
This can all become very stressful, as it requires a great deal of time and attention. To make matters worse, the job needs to begin during a time in which many executors find themselves still suffering the loss of a loved one. Even as they’re managing that loss, these individuals are charged with tasks that would be stressful even under the best of circumstances. For example:
- Executors must move quickly to gain authority from the probate court so that they can begin to take control of the decedent’s assets. This must be done to ensure that those assets are secured and protected so that they can be used for paying debts and fulfilling the terms of the will.
- Those assets then need to be appraised so that the total value of the estate can be determined for tax purposes.
- Some assets may need to be liquidated to free up money to pay debts and taxes – or for later distribution to heirs. Other assets may need to be invested. These tasks too can be stressful, as executors are often dealing with issues that are often unfamiliar to them.
- Creditors must be tracked down, given notice so that they can file claims, and then paid using estate assets. Taxes need to be calculated and paid in accordance with state law.
- An inventory and accounting needs to be compiled for the court and beneficiaries so that the remaining assets can be distributed to the heirs as directed by the will.
Obviously, that’s a great deal of work for one person to do, and it adds a tremendous amount of stress at a time when stress is already in plentiful supply. The good news is that executors don’t have to try to do everything on their own. As an executor, you have the power to retain all the help you need to ensure that this important work gets done the right way. That may mean hiring an appraiser and accountant. It could mean seeking help from a tax or investment specialist. It should definitely involve working with an experienced probate attorney.
How Can an Attorney Help?
The fact is that a competent probate attorney can be the most valuable resource you have at your disposal whenever you’re charged with settling a loved one’s estate. Without an attorney, you could struggle to navigate the complexities of the probate process, and end up making mistakes that could place you and your personal assets in jeopardy. Just consider the benefits that an attorney can provide:
- Your probate attorney can help you to streamline your probate administration process, and ensure that everything is done in accordance with the right procedures and statutory requirements.
- One of the most common errors executors make involves early distributions to heirs. If inheritances are released before debts are settled and the estate ends up in arrears, you could find yourself being held responsible for that shortfall. An attorney can help to guide you through these potential pitfalls.
- A probate attorney can customize his or her services to meet your actual needs. If you’re confident that you can handle most of the tasks involved in the probate process and only require a minimal amount of assistance in areas that are far outside your expertise, your attorney can provide the limited help you need. If, on the other hand, you find that you want far more assistance – up to and including handling everything for you, an experienced professional can provide that help too.
- Above all else, your attorney can help to free up your time so that you can grieve with your family, and reduce the amount of extra stress that your executor role might be causing.
An Attorney can never be the silver bullet that takes away all your grief and stress, but he or she can be an invaluable partner during any estate settlement process. Like other professional services that you can employ during that process, competent legal services can help to ensure that your time as an executor is as stress-free as it can possibly be.
When You’re Looking for True Professionals…
At Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC, our professional probate services team understands how difficult it can be for most executors to strike a balance between their duties to the estate and their own need to grieve over their loss. That’s why we’re committed to providing all our friends and neighbors in the area with the exact level of service that they need to better manage the probate process. If you’re an executor in need of stress relief and want to know more about how probate administration attorneys can help you, then contact us at our website or call us today at (989) 872-5601 to learn more.