The process of estate administration (also referred to as “probate”) is time consuming and complex. There are numerous paperwork requirements and deadlines. The grief, loss and stress that all families experience when a loved one dies make taking on the burden and responsibility of a probate particularly burdensome for many people.
Hiring an experience estate administration attorney is an important way a bereaved family can make this difficult, but necessary, process easier. In most instances, one individual family member will have been designated as the Executor in the deceased’s will or, in cases where no will was prepared, will have to apply the Clerk of Court to be the Administrator of the estate. Some families may only want limited guidance or advice from an attorney. Others seek the piece of mind that comes from knowing that a qualified attorney has been retained and will work to ensure that every aspect of the probate process is handled properly from start to finish.
Whether as the Executor, or as the Administrator, this individual becomes the fiduciary for the estate and is legally responsible for seeing that it is handled according to the law. The Clerk of Court oversees the probate process. The Clerk has the power to require Executors or Administrators to reimburse the estate for any improper disbursements (no matter how innocent the error was or how much money is involved). The Clerk of Court can and will have Executors or Administrators held in contempt of court for missing filing deadlines. Executors and Administrators will be held personally liable for mistakes. Errors in inventories, addressing debts, accountings, disbursements and missed filing deadlines are commonplace. The more complex the estate, the more likely these problems are to arise and the more costly such mistakes can be. The probate process can be a minefield of hazards for even the most careful and conscientious Executor or Administrator.