When someone you know names you as executor or administrator of their estate, you will have a lot of work ahead of you. There is a significant degree of trust implied in the position of executor, and as such, you will have a fiduciary duty to the testator or deceased as well as the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate to act in their best interest, even over your own when making estate-related decisions.
While you may need to put the estate first, it is also of the utmost importance that you protect yourself, especially if the testator did not take steps to compensate you for the work you’ll do. Hiring an attorney as you begin estate administration and the probate process protects you, as the attorney will represent you as the executor, not the testator or the beneficiaries of the estate.
Your attorney can guide you through probate processes
Being an executor will mean doing a lot of work, including paying off creditors, filing tax returns and distributing assets among surviving family members. Mistakes that you make in this process can leave you either legally or financially vulnerable to claims by both beneficiaries of the estate and outside parties.
For example, if you fail to pay off a creditor and instead begin to distribute assets to beneficiaries, an unpaid creditor may be able to take action against you personally for that failure. Having a lawyer who represents you as the executor can help you avoid making mistakes that could cause hardship for you in the future.
You need someone looking out for you when everyone focuses on themselves
An inheritance has the ability to bring out the worst in many people. People expecting a large windfall may take legal action against an executor for an estate in order to increase what they inherit or to otherwise manipulate circumstances to their own benefit.
Having your own legal representation protects you from oversights and mistakes that could leave you vulnerable to challenges and will also help ensure that you comply with the law and the terms set out in the last will to the best of your ability.