Does the Executor of a Will Have to Use an Attorney to Execute the Will?

By Regan Rondinelli-Haberek

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.

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Does the Executor of Will Debt Need a Beneficiary's Signature to Pay Off Assets & Debts?

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Rules for Witnessing a Will

A last will and testament is a powerful legal document that instructs the executor of an estate how to distribute the property of the writer of the will, known as the testator, after he dies. Because of the potential and motivation for fraud, state governments have passed laws imposing strict restrictions on the format of a will. All states require that the testator's signature be witnessed.

What Do I Do if My Father Had a Will & Has Died?

As soon as your father died, his property became his probate estate. If he left a will, his property will probably be distributed according to its terms by the probate court. You must complete certain steps to get the probate process started. Although all states apply the same basic principles, the specifics of the probate laws of individual states often differ.

Can You Make Someone an Executor in a Will Without Going Through a Lawyer?

When you write a will, you need to name an executor. An executor is the person responsible for carrying out your final directions and wishes regarding your property and belongings. The person you name as executor should be trustworthy and responsible, as she'll have to manage your entire estate. You don't need a lawyer to make a will or to name an executor. You also don't have to ask a person for permission before naming her as executor in your will, although it is in your best interest to do so. If your chosen executor decides she doesn't want the responsibility after you die, the court will have to find another person to manage your estate. The lack of an executor will delay probate, the court proceedings necessary to settle your last affairs. A probate delay may financially affect your loved ones if they're relying on money from your estate to pay bills.

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