When an executor should seek legal help to administer an estate

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When a loved one passes, an already difficult time for the family can become more so for the executor of the deceased’s estate.  Obviously, no one wants to spend a great deal of time thinking about probate, and most people achieve that goal relatively easy.  Fortunately, probate, like death, is not something you must deal with very often.  That being the case however, when it comes time to step into the executor role, you may find yourself at a complete loss as how to proceed.  While the process is straight forward for many families, some circumstances might leave you wondering when an executor should seek legal help to administer an estate.  As with most questions in life, the answer is dependent on the circumstances.  Let’s look at the issues that might cause you to seek out legal help in the event of a complicated and ugly probate process.

What is Probate, and Why is it a Thing?

As Benjamin Franklin once noted, “the only thing that is certain is death and taxes.”  The probate process is the combination of those two facts.  A court supervised process; probate is that authentication process of the decedent’s last will and testament, which includes the identification of and value of any outstanding assets, as well as paying off final bills and taxes that were owed at the time of death.  Finally, once the assets have been identified and debts are paid off, the executer makes sure that the rightful beneficiaries receive their share of the remainder of the estate.

Should You Seek Legal Help to Administer an Estate?

Generally speaking, the best of all possible goals is to settle an estate with little or no probate, but should the circumstances warrant it probate court might be mandatory based on actions the decedent took prior to death.  As an example, drafting a Living Trust would avoid the hassles of probate, but it would be too late to pull that trigger in the event of their death.

The majority of estate probate should be relatively simple with no need to seek legal counsel, but there are certain warning signs that might suggest looking for the services of qualified Tacoma probate attorneys is the easiest and most prudent course of action.

Some of those red flags include:

  • Estate Includes a Business or Complicated Assets—if the estate consists of a checking account and little more you can probably get away without the services of a probate attorney.  Managing and evaluating of a company takes more expertise than a layman would probably feel comfortable administrating.
  • Contested Wills—means that the relatives are fighting over the remaining assets.  If the estate is being challenged by one or more parties, you will want to consider enlisting the services of a qualified probate lawyer.
  • Not Enough Money to Satisfy Creditors—obviously, if the estate has enough assets to satisfy its creditors and still have money left to pay out beneficiaries, you’re in good shape without the need for an attorney.  If that is not the case however, you should get expert legal advice prior to paying off any creditor debt.
  • Estate is Subject to State or Federal Taxes—as mentioned earlier, death and taxes are a constant and if a sizable estate looks to be on the hook for federal or state taxes, you will want to receive some expert legal opinion prior to settling the estate.

Call the Expert Legal Team of Tacoma Probate Attorneys

If you find yourself the executioner of a will and are staring down a difficult probate process, you may want to reach out to our dedicated team of probate attorneys here at Dickson Frohlich to help navigate unfamiliar legal waters.

Our familiarity with the probate process allows us the knowledge to properly advise you and family members on a host of legal considerations related to probate matters.  Proactively, we’ll work with families to draft estate planning documents, and recommend any needed changes owing to evolving circumstances.

Additionally, we are standing by to assist in the probate process to guarantee that all conditions of the will are being met, as well as

Looking after the rights and interests of beneficiaries is also a major advantage that our qualified team here at Dickson Frohlich do every day.  If you have questions regarding the probate process in Washington, contact the legal team at Dickson Frohlich to discuss your concerns and get the guidance you need to ensure that your loved ones final wishes are being attended to as you know they would want.


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