When a person dies, a probate estate is opened to settle the decedent’s financial affairs. Estate administration involves numerous steps. Without a basic understanding of probate law and estate administration, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the requirements, deadlines, and responsibilities of administering a probate estate or handling estate litigation. Many individuals seek the advice and help of an estate administration attorney.
The probate process can be complex and stressful, especially for a person who is dealing with the death of a loved one. In addition to the grieving process, a personal representative or trustee must also deal with the responsibilities and duties imposed by the court and probate laws. An estate administration attorney assists clients in all aspects of estate administration, including the meticulous accounting that is involved in probating estates. Attorneys are equipped with the skills and resources necessary to handle the requirements placed on a personal representative.
Estate Administration Can Be Time-Consuming
Administrating an estate involves numerous steps. A personal representative has several responsibilities and duties including:
· Obtaining a certified copy of the death certificate;
· Locating the original will, if a will exists;
· Completing and filing the petition to open a probate estate with the Probate Court;
· Notifying heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the estate;
· Securing the decedent’s assets;
· Completing and filing an accounting of all property assets in the decedent’s name;
· Reviewing, paying, or objecting to claims by creditors;
· Preparing and filing tax returns;
· Distributing property and assets according to the decedent’s will or intestate laws;
· Securing receipts for property distributed from the estate;
· Preparing a final accounting detailing all disbursements from the estate;
· Defending the will against any objections or challenges; and,
· Preparing and filing documents to close the estate.
Depending on the size of the estate, the number of heirs, and whether there are disputes or challenges, an estate can remain open for a year or longer. An estate administration attorney guides a personal representative through each step of the estate administration process. Because a personal representative can be held liable for negligence and other errors made while administering the estate, it is important to have an attorney to provide legal advice and support.
Estate Administration and Litigation
In addition to assisting in the administration of an estate, estate administration attorneys also assist personal representatives, heirs, creditors, beneficiaries, and other interested parties with estate litigation. Estate administration attorneys represent parties in litigated matters related to:
· Claims by creditors
· Actions contesting the validity of a will
· Breach of duty claims against the personal representative
· Contesting the appointment of a guardian in the will
· Petitions to terminate a trust
It is important to consult with an experienced attorney when litigating an estate dispute. You need a legal advocate who can represent your best interests by investigating the dispute, evaluating the merit of the other party’s allegations, and filing or defending the action in court.
Estate Administration Attorneys Can Take Some of the Stress Out of an Already Difficult SItuation
Handling an estate or litigating a matter in probate court is a significant undertaking. Each decision made by a personal representative can impact the outcome of litigation and probate matters. It is helpful to hire an estate administration attorney to provide advice and guidance in making those decisions to avoid costly and time-consuming errors.
Experienced estate-planning attorney Steve Thienel is dedicated to assisting clients in Virginia, Maryland, and throughout the DC Metro area. Contact Thienel Law, LLC today for assistance with your estate planning or administration needs.