If you have been named as the executor of a small estate in the will of someone who has recently died, then you may be wondering if you should contact a probate attorney for help. In general, the advice you'll hear is that you should consult with an attorney, but for many families, there may not be a large enough value to the assets of the deceased to justify this. Although in many states a small estate can be handled by an executor without any legal assistance, there are situations where you may still need to contact an attorney. The following are a few reasons for doing this.
The debts owed are greater than the assets
This is a straightforward calculation. Simply add up the value of the assets, and then subtract out the debts owed by the deceased. Remember to include unpaid taxes, including final income taxes owed for the current year. You should also include all funeral expenses and other end-of-life-related expenses of the deceased. If the assets do not cover all of the debts, do not pay any of them. First consult with a probate attorney.
Family members are beginning to fight over assets
If you are a surviving child of the deceased and have siblings or other family members who are fighting over assets, it is a good idea to consult a probate attorney. This is true regardless of whether the will left behind was clearly written. A will can be challenged, but a probate attorney can explain the laws of the state you live in, and this, in turn, can be explained to all surviving family members.
There are complex assets involved
Common assets such as vehicles, a house, and bank accounts are straightforward; you are likely to be able to handle this on your own, but there are many assets that can be complicated. One example is if the deceased had a business that was operating at the time of his or her death. What happens to this business and the process behind it is a matter for a probate court, and you need to get advice on how to proceed.
As you move forward with the work of an executor, remember that a probate attorney is there to make the process go more smoothly. You may not need an attorney every step of the way. Sometimes a one-time consultation is all you will need, but do not hesitate to contact a probate attorney, such as John R. Lonergan, P.A., even if the estate is a small one.
If you've recently moved into a new house and your neighbors are claiming you've infringed on their property line with your new fence, you may not know what to do. Sure, the idea of contacting a lawyer can be intimidating, but if your neighbors are insistent that you're on their property and you can't prove otherwise, an attorney may be the best choice. I created this site to help people just like you understand the laws surrounding property boundaries, real estate claims, and similar issues. I hope that the information here will give you some clarity as to whether or not you need to consult an attorney to protect your interests.