As an estate executor, there are many responsibilities you are going to face while probating the estate. You would be the one to write a petition to the court to initiate probate, handle assets, pay probate fees, estate debts and tax, as well as disburse the estate to the beneficiaries. All these responsibilities come with a lot of formalities and you may easily run into mistakes when not properly guided by a professional. A probate attorney can steer you in the right way always so that every action you take is legal, transparent, and precise.
So let us now take a look at 5 mistakes a probate lawyer can help you avoid
5 mistakes a probate lawyer can help you avoid
1. Not properly filing the necessary documents
Probate comes with a whole lot of paperwork. From the beginning until the end, you are going to be filing documents in and out of court. You begin probate by filing a petition to the court; you would also have to nose-dive into documents proving ownership of assets in the estate, file tax return forms, file a final account, report and petition for final disbursement, and also prepare documents to transfer ownership of assets to beneficiaries.
It is not so difficult to run into jams and make mistakes when doing all this. The court will not tell you exactly how to prepare the document and so you are left on your own. And truth be told, a slight mistake can end up being catastrophic to the estate. But your probate attorney who has been involved with the same paperwork so many times before would be able to prepare them with ease like it is second nature, giving less room for errors.
2. Not filing tax return form on time
Executors normally have so much on their plate and may forget to do some seemingly frivolous yet elaborate task. Some forget to prepare tax return forms on time.
As an executor, you may even think that estate tax can be paid at any time so long you pay it. But this is not the real case. There is a deadline for filing and submitting your estate tax return form and when this time is exceeded, you may be penalized/fined. Knowing this, your probate attorney will do well to not only inform you, but take the burden off your shoulders by helping you to prepare and submit the form.
3. Being disorganized
As have been said, as an executor, you would have so much to do. This can bring in confusion such that you do not know what should be the first on your to-do list. You would be thinking of how to prepare that real estate and put it up for sale; you would also be thinking about how to validate the claims of creditors. You find yourself being disorganized, and this feeling actually decelerates your pace.
To avoid this, you can choose to share the burden with a probate attorney. You can hire an attorney and make an official agreement such that they would be in charge of so-and-so probate duties while you face other aspects. This can considerably reduce attorney fees while helping you to stay organized and focused knowing fully when that your attorney is giving you an extra hand.
4. Not being transparent enough
Some executors do feel they can carry out their roles without involving the family members. While they can do this, it is not the best way to go about it. Remember you are representing the deceased to administer the estate on behalf of the family and beneficiaries. Keeping these people in the dark will only serve to put them in suspense, having no clue as to new developments. They would want to know what exactly you’re doing with the estate and when they don’t, it gives room for suspicion. It is therefore crucial that you maintain a healthy rapport with the beneficiaries of the deceased. The communication doesn’t have to be too frequent; just enough to let them know the steps you’re taking, decisions you intend to make, and the challenges you are facing. Keeping them abreast helps them know what to expect at each given point.
When they see a probate attorney working with you, they have more trust and confidence in you that you would be doing the right thing.
5. Not following strictly to state and court guidelines
The state as well as the court in question will most definitely have specific probate guidelines which must be followed duly by the executor. For example in New York, there is an order by which you must settle financial obligations of the estate. Creditors and estate tax are given precedence over even beneficiaries; it therefore means you must not give any property to a beneficiary until debts are settled. If you do so in order to help a needy beneficiary, you would be held liable. A probate lawyer would always keep you in check to ensure you follow due protocols.
To get the best of probate, get help by contacting a probate lawyer attorney near you.