You or someone you know may have recently experienced the loss of a loved one only to find out that you have been named the Executor of the decedent’s will. What do you do? Where do you go? What will happen to the estate? Are you going to have to file a Petition for Probate in the local courthouse? The answers depend on each situation.
For those who have chosen to accept the task of administering an estate, here are few items to consider:
There are many skills an executor must possess: Organizational skills, patience, honesty, and careful attention to detail. Luckily, you can hire a professional for the accounting. You can ask anyone for help, or hire someone, and the money will come from the estate funds. Above all else, you must be able to work well with the beneficiaries.
Don’t be scared, being an executor of an estate won’t take up every minute of your life, however it will take-up a portion of your time. Every probate situation is different, but, in California, the average time it takes to fully administer and distribute the estate is between 12 and 18 months.
Ease of Administration
Some estates are very large and may be quite difficult to handle on your own. However, a majority of estates that end up in probate court are small to medium sized (between $150,000 and $1 million), and if you are familiar with the decedent and their family, it should be fairly easy to handle. Yet, some people do have complex financial affairs that require a lot of digging around to find the will, investments, and insurance policies.
If you are also a beneficiary, you should consider the following:
- Do I live far away? What would my expenses amount to?
- Will the rest of the family cooperate with me? Will there be bickering I may not be interested in handling?
- Will this process takes a lot of time away from my family and work life?
- Could someone else serves as a better executor?
- Maybe someone would be a good co-executor? If so, could I work well with the co-executor?
The distribution of an estate can be a great way to say your final goodbyes to a dear family member or friend.
If the will was created before the divorce and the ex-spouse is a beneficiary, the ex-spouse is automatically disqualified as a beneficiary and the assets are distributed to the remaining beneficiaries. However, if the decedent created the will after the divorce was final and names the ex-spouse a beneficiary, the assets will still go to the ex-spouse.
Do you need a Lawyer?
No, you do not have to have a lawyer represent you in court. But, you really should consider hiring a lawyer who knows how to navigate the arcane probate process and who can work with all family members in a professional, and not a personal, manner. In California, lawyer fees are governed by statute and must be approved by a Judge.