When you create a will, you not only leave instructions for how your property should be distributed upon death, you also nominate someone to administer your estate. This person is known as the executor. The executor is charged with gathering estate property, paying estate debts and making distributions to beneficiaries of the will.
Hiring an Estate Attorney
For a will to be legally effective, it must be submitted to a court for probate. Whether or not an executor must use an attorney to shepherd the will through the probate process differs from state to state. For instance, in Mississippi, if a will is submitted for probate, the executor must hire a Mississippi probate attorney. However, in New York the choice to hire an attorney is in the executor's discretion. You can check with your local probate court to see if an attorney is required to probate a will in your state.
When an Executor Should Seek Help
Depending on the complexity of the estate, it may be wise for the executor to consult an attorney even if not mandated by law. For instance, if an heir contests the will, or if the executor anticipates a will contest, he should contact an attorney sooner rather than later. An executor bears the responsibility of prudently and efficiently managing the estate, and is accountable to estate beneficiaries. Anytime he feels overwhelmed or confused, he would be wise to contact an estate attorney to guide him through the process.