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Should an executor hire an attorney?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Estate Administration |

A testator, or someone who creates a will, appoints a personal representative or executor to carry out their last wishes and administer their estate. Estate administration involves probate administration, which is essentially the legal process of validating a will and settling estate affairs before distributing the estate assets to the named beneficiaries.

Estate administration requires an executor to complete legal requirements and meet court deadlines. Accepting the role of an executor in Pennsylvania means you have a fiduciary duty to the testator and to their estate. The law holds fiduciaries to the highest standard of loyalty and care. While hiring an estate attorney is not a legal requirement, their guidance and expertise can help you maintain that standard.

How an attorney can help with estate administration

In the early weeks following the passing of your loved one, you must already initiate the estate administration process. You only have the authority to act as an executor after you submit the will to the Register of Wills in the county where your loved one resided. Remember, the will should be the current will and should include any amendments the testator made before they died.

It can be challenging for anyone without a legal background to formally begin estate administration and go through each of the consequent steps. You may even make mistakes, which may require legal assistance to resolve. An estate attorney can help you with the following:

  • Pay debts and expenses
  • File the estate’s tax returns
  • Notify and deal with creditors
  • Locate and notify the heirs and beneficiaries
  • Compile an inventory and make an accounting of all the estate assets
  • Obtain the date of death values
  • File formal accounting records
  • Handle claims against the estate
  • Distribute the estate assets fairly among the surviving heirs and beneficiaries

If you make an error, no matter how inconsequential, an interested party could claim that you breached your fiduciary duty. An estate attorney can ensure you do not breach your fiduciary duty and help you avoid costly disputes.