As an Encino probate lawyer, I often find that people agree to become the Executor of someone’s estate without fully understanding the tasks and responsibilities involved. The work of the executor can be an overwhelming experience. Most executors take on the responsibility as a courtesy to a loved one, without investigating whether they are really prepared to fulfill the duties they have agreed to.
The funny thing is that if you are not prepared for what’s expected of you, the process actually becomes much more difficult. And, if deadlines are blown, bills go unpaid or assets not properly managed, you could be held personally liable.
So before you say “yes” to handling someone else’s affairs after they pass away, take a moment to read through the following steps that you will be taking to ensure you are ready and willing to carry them out.
First, when your loved one dies, legal documents must be filed with the Los Angeles County probate courts to start the probate process. Depending upon the complexity of the estate, you may be required to file additional documentation and paperwork that is asked of you. Once the paperwork is filed, you will wait while the court validates the will. After this happens, you will begin the work of settling the debts of the deceased as well as managing and paying their tax obligations.
After all those responsibilities have been completed, it is time to distribute the estate’s assets according to the direction of the deceased’s estate plan. Even in the best of circumstances, this process requires a significant amount of time and effort. If there are issues or problems, it could require more time and money to resolve.
Another overlooked probate issue is that you’ll be dealing directly with the heirs during this time. Many will be emotional following the loss of their loved one, some may be disgruntled about what they do (or do not) stand to inherit, and some may stand in the way of you doing your job. Honestly, the opportunities for drama and fighting after the loss of a loved one are endless. If you would rather not deal with the “people” side of managing the estate, then the role of an executor is probably not for you.
Finally, don’t forget that as an executor, you can make the choice to bring on a probate attorney to help you oversee the process of closing out the estate. A probate attorney can help you make decisions, take care of court dates and filings and manage the legal side of things. This will likely give you the peace of mind you are looking for as you retain the right to stay in control, but you have professional assistance in order to avoid mistakes and liabilities, while gaining extra time to spend with your grieving family. If you’d like more information on how our Encino probate lawyers may be able to help you through the process, contact us at (818) 905-6088.