Being An Executor Without Using A Lawyer

highrate
highrate   |     |   27 posts since 2016

I asked this question as an aside in a different posting. I am wondering if people here have served as executors without hiring a lawyer. Right now I have no plan to hire one, but that may change. I haven't even probated the will. After that, I will wing it. But it seems to me it shouldn't be so complicated



Answers
QED
QED   |     |   95 posts since 2013
I was executor of my dad's estate. It was no big deal and everything was handled without a lawyer. But that was solely on account of my dad's state of residence.

In some states the laws have been reformed so as to facilitate the process of will probation without a lawyer's assist. In other states the legislatures have purposefully avoided such reforms in order to line the pockets of their lawyer friends. Too often, persons elected to state legislatures are themselves lawyers. It is difficult for them to pass law which serves the people at the expense of their lawyer buddies.
WonderingWoman
WonderingWoman   |     |   14 posts since 2011
I was the executor of my father's estate. It was in a trust and completely messed up. There were quite a few pieces of property involved and I thought I needed a lawyer but after dealing with one for a short time I fired him and managed to take care of everything on my own.
highrate
highrate   |     |   27 posts since 2016
I am thinking of using a legal zoom 6 month subscription for the executorship but I haven't decided. I still have to bring in the will to the county probate court
111
111   |     |   65 posts since 2019
Highrate, a huge part of your question is dependent on the estate laws of the state where the decedent lived. Another huge part depends on how much effort was made before death to title or "containerize" assets in ways that would enable them to pass to others but not through the will, thus avoiding probate altogether. So in my mind, it's impossible to generalize.
A few years ago I served as executor. No lawyer or probate process was needed because things had been set up beforehand, using a trust (a lawyer was used to do that). There were just a few assets unintentionally left out of the trust - there almost always are a few - but these were small enough to be handled by using a "small estate affidavit". You might look into this, BTW - nearly every state has this provision, it avoids probate, and almost never requires a lawyer.
FHB
FHB   |     |   5 posts since 2013
Agree completely. I was the executor of my Aunt's estate and although she left a will with me listed as the executor, her estate consisted of bank accounts and CD's for which there were no beneficiaries. Her will listed beneficiaries and a percentage each was to receive, including charities. In order to close the CD's and bank accounts I had to obtain a "letter of administration" from the court which involves probate. Funds were deposited in an estate account and then checks were issued to the beneficiaries. I did use a lawyer.
highrate
highrate   |     |   27 posts since 2016
I have been reading about estate accounts and I have to obtain a tax id for the estate. Did you have to get approval from the court to open the account and did you need separate approval to disburse the funds? ANd I understand I will have to file a tax return for my dad but also for the estate?
FHB
FHB   |     |   5 posts since 2013
As others have mentioned, state laws differ. My situation took place in Florida. Once I received the letter of administration, I had the authority to handle everything. She had already sold her house when she died, but I would have had authority to sell it. I did not need separate approval to open the bank account, just showed my ID and the LOA and issued checks as usual. Her SS # was the tax ID #. Also had to file a tax return for her but that does not require the LOA, just enter your name as appropriate on the return. Once everything was settled the court "released" me via a letter so I was no longer responsible for anything else that came up.
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Ally6770
Ally6770   |     |   2,765 posts since 2010
I used a lawyer in the state of Michigan in an estate for my husband's aunt in 1990 and his father in 1992.  Did not use a lawyer for an estate I did in 2012. The only thing you have to be careful of is if your state requires you to put a notice in the paper for creditors. This used to have to be done within a certain time after a death. Also note that bank and credit union accounts used to lose insurance 6 months after the death of the owner if the title on the account has not been changed. Not sure if the laws have changed on that. Most smaller estates do not require lawyers if the things are filled out properly. You have to check your state laws for transfer of automobiles, furniture etc. If there is a will that has to be probated. If there is a will there is a good chance that the county of residence also has a copy. Probating a will protects you as an executor from a lawsuit. If you follow the laws of your state you do not need a lawyer even while probating a will. The people in the county building can  guide you with the correct paperwork to file. There used to be a timeline with the paperwork in my state. If there is a trust and things were not titled to the trust there is usually in the trust a "pour over will" which transfers things that was missed to the trust. 
CuriousDave
CuriousDave   |     |   9 posts since 2018
There are several good DIY books that will walk you through the process. Try this site for starters (includes some basic info): https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-executors-job
You may need to also search online for a publication that covers the state where the deceased person was living prior to death, because state law controls the process and some states impose their own inheritance or death taxes in addition to whatever federal estate tax may be owed.
highrate
highrate   |     |   27 posts since 2016
I haven't yet brought in the will. I hope they will give instructions in what to do. I already know what the assets are and the small amount of bills that need to be paid. I know that I could take care of everything in the will within a day, but I guess I have to follow whatever the rules of New Jersey are. There are 4 beneficiaries who will get a fixed amount and then I am the last beneficiary getting the rest and I am the executor
CuriousDave
CuriousDave   |     |   9 posts since 2018
You may also want to check on how each of the assets are titled. If they are POD (Pay On Death) or ROD (Registration On Death) accounts that specifically name the beneficiaries, they fall outside probate because the will does not apply to them. All that may be necessary for such assets is for each named benefiiary to provide to the bank or other investment manager a copy of the death certificate, proof of the beneficiary's ID and paperwork showing the account number and description, and the proceeds can sometimes be received by the beneficiaries on the spot. That's especially true for U.S. Savings Bonds showing POD beneficiaries if the decedent's bank still handles the processing. It can be very helpful if title to investments already includes named beneficiaries upon death, because they by-pass probate, saving processing time (no court permission required for the proceeds to be distributed), costs (probate fees avoided) and, because they by-pass the will, they are not available to the prying eyes of the public (everyting in a will is a matter of public record).
highrate
highrate   |     |   27 posts since 2016
I wish I had known all this before. I would have made more assets pod. I was the poa. But I left a number of them without any beneficiary and now it is just making more work , delay and headache


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