Will Executors work close with probate lawyers to settle the estate.
A Will Executor oversees the administration of the estate of a deceased person. When someone dies all of their assets are transferred to probate unless they have executed a living trust. If the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament, the will executor must abide by the directives outlined in the document. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), the will executor must adhere to probate laws of the decedent's state of residence.
Typically, a will executor works with a probate lawyer to ensure all legal issues are properly addressed. Probate lawyers usually charge a flat fee or hourly rate; although in some states they can charge a percentage of the estate. Much of the administrative work can be performed by the will executor including filing the Will in probate court, submitting inheritance tax forms to the Tax Assessor's office and filing the decedent's final tax return.
Additional duties of the will executor include inventorying the decedent's assets and personal belongings, contacting creditors and paying outstanding debts. Depending on the size and complexities of the estate, probate can take six months to three years, or longer, to close. The length of time depends primarily on the workload of the probate court.
As long as all heirs are in agreement on the distribution of assets, probate can usually be settled in an expedient manner. However, if any heirs contest the Will or dispute the probate process, the estate can be tied up for years. While the cost of obtaining legal counsel to contest a Will lies with the disputing heir, the estate is responsible for attorney fees to defend the decedent's final wishes.
In most cases, the will executor is appointed through the decedent's Last Will and Testament. Oftentimes, the estate administrator is a direct lineage heir apparent or spouse of the decedent. When selecting an estate administrator, it is important to choose someone who is organized and capable of handling finances. The estate executor has numerous responsibilities and may have to deal with disgruntled family members. It is important to select someone who can withstand the pressure if things get heated up.
Once an estate passes through probate, the final act of the will executor involves distribution of assets. Oftentimes, distribution is outlined in the Will and the decedent clearly states who receives their belongings. If there is no Will, the will executor must follow directives outlined by the probate court.
The will executor plays an important role throughout the probate process. In most cases, the administrator is provided with a fee for their services. The fee can be an hourly rate, flat fee or percentage of the estate.
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