If your mother recently passed away, you are undoubtedly still dealing with your grief and the other strong emotions that come with the loss of a parent. If you also learned that your mother appointed you to be the Executor of her estate, you may be unsure what that job entails. Do you need an attorney to help you? To help you figure that out, the Woburn probate attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices help you decide if you need an attorney to help you probate your mother’s estate.
Probate is the legal process that is typically required following an individual’s death. The law requires a decedent’s estate to go through probate for several reasons, including to ensure that all of the decedent’s assets are properly identified and transferred to the new owners. One of the many advantages to executing a Last Will and Testament is the ability to appoint an Executor. The fact that your loved one named you as the Executor to his/her estate shows a considerable amount of trust and faith in your abilities on the part of the decedent. Though every probate is unique, some of the more common duties and responsibilities of an Executor include:
- Identifying, locating, and securing documents and assets. An Executor must act quickly to prepare for the opening of probate. An original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament must be located, and certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate ordered. Any additional estate planning documents should also be located and secured. Estate assets must also be identified, located, and secured.
- Determining if formal probate is needed. A preliminary decision must be made regarding what type of probate is required – formal or an alternative to formal for small estates.
- Initiating probate. The Executor must submit a certified copy of the death certificate, a signed, original copy of the decedent’s Will, and a petition to open probate to the appropriate court.
- Categorizing and valuing assets. The Executor must obtain a date of death value for all estate assets and decide if they are probate or non-probate assets because some assets bypass the probate process entirely.
- Notifying creditors and reviewing claims. Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not require creditors to be notified; however, notice of the initiation of probate must be published in a local newspaper. The Executor must review all claims and approve or deny them.
- Litigating any challenges. If a Will contest is filed, the Executor is required to defend the Will submitted for probate throughout the litigation that will follow.
- Calculating, and paying taxes. The Executor must determine if any state or federal gift and estate taxes are due from the estate. All necessary tax returns must be filed, and any tax debt owed must be paid out of estate assets.
- Distributing assets. Finally, the Executor must prepare any necessary legal documents to effectuate the transfer of the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries.
Do I Need a Probate Attorney to Help Me?
You are not required by law to retain the services of a probate attorney to help you probate your mother’s estate; however, you may wish to do so anyway for several reasons. Navigating the court system can be challenging for an Executor who is unfamiliar with the rules and procedures which can lead to costly mistakes. Overseeing the probate process can also be very time consuming and emotionally draining at a time when you are still grieving the loss of a parent. If you do choose to hire a probate attorney, your attorney can help you in a variety of ways, such as:
- Providing advice and guidance on the law and the court procedures.
- Preparing and filing all documents that must be filed with the court.
- Locating experts to assist with the probate process, such as appraisers, accountants, and real estate agents.
- Defending the estate if a challenge is brought.
- Ensuring that the estate’s tax obligations are met.
- Assisting with the sale of assets, if necessary, to pay claims.
- Communicating with beneficiaries and/or creditors when questions arise.
- Preparing all documents necessary to transfer assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs.
Contact Woburn Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about probating your mother’s estate, contactthe Woburn probate attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.
In Massachusetts, formal probate can take months, even years, to complete because creditors have to be given an opportunity to file claims against the estate. If the estate becomes involved in litigation, it could take even longer to complete the probate process.
Probate expenses, including reasonable legal fees, are paid by the estate using available estate assets.
Massachusetts, like most states, offers an alternative to formal probate for estate’s that qualify. If your mother’s estate is eligible for the small estate alternative, you may not need to hire an attorney; however, it is still in your best interest to consult an experienced probate attorney to ensure that you understand your responsibilities and options.