Being named executor in a loved one’s will can be an honor. However, executors have no shortage of responsibilities, from initiating probate proceedings to inventorying an estate’s assets and distributing inheritance. While low-value and modest estates can sometimes be handled outside the courts, most end up in front of a judge. Since executors can be held liable for small mistakes such as missing a deadline, many seek professional assistance. An experienced probate attorney can help you make sense of the court’s expectations while fulfilling your loved one’s final wishes.  When an executor needs an attorney

How an Attorney Can Help Ease the Pain of Probate

Nobody likes going to court. Probate, especially, can pose its own challenges: you may still be reeling from the loss of a loved one while trying to negotiate your new role as an estate executor.

A California probate attorney can help you ease into your role by:

  • Relieving your burden. Being an estate executor is a big responsibility that not everyone wants. If you feel uncertain about your role, an estate attorney can help shoulder your obligations.
  • Eliminating mistakes. Probate is a time-sensitive process. You only have a certain amount of time to initiate proceedings, notify heirs and debtors, and disburse assets. If you make a mistake at any stage, you could be held financially liable for any losses. 
  • Locating and appraising assets. As an executor, you will need to collect, inventory, and appraise all of the deceased person’s assets, including safe deposit boxes and personal accounts that could be hard to access.
  • Preserving the estate. When you are administering an estate, you have to minimize losses. This might mean selling off depreciating assets or protecting assets which may accrue value.
  • Clearing debts. Inheritances cannot be disbursed until all of the deceased person’s creditors have been paid. Sometimes, creditors make bad-faith claims that can be difficult to challenge without a professional’s help.
  • Paying taxes. While California does not have a state inheritance tax, you must pay any federal wealth and capital gains taxes resulting from the sale or disbursement of estate assets.
  • Resolving conflicts. Not all estates are settled peacefully. If you anticipate that heirs may contest the terms of the will or disagree over how their gifts have been apportioned, you might need a lawyer to mediate and protect the estate’s integrity.

There is rarely a one-size-fits-all to estate and probate administration, especially when families, friends, and other loved ones are involved. While not every estate needs to go through probate, every executor can benefit from an attorney’s guidance.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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