Posted on November 2, 2018

Do You Need an Attorney to Help with the Estate Administration Process?

(Or Can You Do It Alone)?

A question that comes up a lot is whether the personal representative of an estate – either an executor or administrator – should hire an attorney to help with the estate administration process. The personal representative’s job is relatively straightforward – at least in theory. They need to collect the assets, pay the administration costs, pay the debts and distribute what remains to the beneficiaries. The job, however, exposes the personal representative to a lot of risk. An estate attorney should expedite the estate administration process while identifying any risk and helping the personal representative avoid it.

Some of the risks associated with serving as a personal representative include the following:

  • Beneficiaries who zealously pursue distributions from the estate
  • Working with estate creditors
  • Child support issues of the beneficiaries
  • Accounting for dollars spent to beneficiaries
  • Making sure estate, inheritance and income taxes are paid
  • Maximizing value of assets and minimizing waste

Ignorance is bliss – if you don’t know all of the danger associated with the estate administration process then there’s nothing to be afraid of as you work through it. However, ignorance is not an excuse. Many personal representatives unknowingly create problems for themselves by doing what seems right only to find out that they shouldn’t have done what they did.

The reality is that many personal representative are able to handle the estate administration process on their own. Often it is clear what needs to be done and the process is easy. In simple estates, doing things wrong often doesn’t create trouble – if the personal representative is the only beneficiary and there aren’t any taxes due and few, if any, creditors then it’s hard to mess things up. But, in estates where there is any complexity at all the personal representative is well served to work with an estate attorney to make sure things are done right and they are protected.

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Price & Price attorneys have received recognition from various groups and publications. Specific awards are noted on our attorney bios. More information about each of these awards and the methodology used for selection can be found on the following links. Super Lawyers and SJ Magazine 2017 Top Attorneys. No aspect of these accolades has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

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