If a close relative of yours died recently, you may have discovered that they made you executor of their will. If so, you may have many questions about what you should do and how to go about the probate process. Below are answers to five possible questions you may have after becoming the executor of your deceased relative's will.
Do You Automatically Have Legal Power as an Executor?
Once you find out you were named the executor of your loved one's will, you may wonder if you automatically have legal power over their estate. While the document does give you power, the will must first be authenticated by a judge in probate court so they can legally appoint you as an executor.
If you try to make decisions on the estate before this legal appointment, you may receive backlash from other family members who may try to dispute your claim as executor. Having a judge verify the will and your position gives you the authority to coordinate the process.
Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer?
You may wonder if you need to hire a lawyer to represent you as you go through the probate process. The answer to this question depends on the complexity of the relative's will, as well as how much property they owned.
If the will is a simple transfer of all property to one individual, the proceedings most likely will not take long. You may not need a lawyer in this case.
However, if your loved one had multiple bank accounts, property, and other transferable goods, you should at least consult with a probate attorney from a law firm like Leon J Teichner & Associates, P.C. This is especially important if you are unfamiliar with legal terms and court processes.
Are You Required to Maintain Your Loved One's Property?
Once you have been legally appointed the executor, you may wonder what you are supposed to do with the property until the probate proceedings are finalized. Until the property is sold or given to the person named in the will, you are required to keep the property maintained.
Responsibilities for maintaining the property include keeping the lawn mowed according to city ordinance and making repairs. For example, if a branch falls on the roof, you are required to make the necessary repairs to keep the rainwater from flooding the interior.
Are You Responsible For the Deceased's Debts?
If your deceased relative left a lot of debt behind, you are responsible for coordinating the payment of the debts. The payment of all debts usually takes precedence over the transfer of inheritable properties.
Even while the estate is in probate, you may be required to sell parts of the property to pay for overdue bills. This process can become complicated, as family members may try to fight the selling of land or a home, even if you are legally in the right. For this part of the process, a lawyer can help make things run more smoothly.
What Happens If Another Family Member Disputes the Will?
Although you may have been appointed the executor by your deceased loved one's will and the probate judge, you may have a disgruntled family member who disputes either your appointment or parts of the will itself. If so, the burden of proof for their claims will lie with them when they go before the judge. However, you may want to have a probate lawyer on your side so they can protect both your and the deceased's rights.
After reading the above answers, you may still have questions about your responsibilities as an executor and the probate process. You may want to schedule a consultation with a probate law attorney who can address your concerns and help guide you through this difficult time.