By: Kavina Nagrani, JD, TEP
Somebody you know has unfortunately passed away, and you have been named as their Estate Trustee (formally referred to as the “Executor or Executrix”) in their Will.
Are you pulling out your hair with the various executor checklists that you found online? Are your friends and family members giving you advice about what you should be doing? Are you frustrated with the bank and other financial institutions? Do you feel lost and pulled in a million different directions? Are the beneficiaries calling you asking for their money?
Many of you will have difficulty even interpreting the Will itself and understanding all of your duties and obligations. While Google searches may help you get started and there are a number of great executor resources online, nothing will help you more than having an estate lawyer or qualified executor advisor guide you through this daunting process.
Who will pay the legal fees?
Executors are entitled to seek legal advice at the expense of the Estate. Reasonable legal fees are not only allowed but expected. Estates are not usually as ‘simple’ as one would think.
Estate Lawyers can help expedite the process
Estate lawyers are well-versed in the dos and don’ts of the entire estate administration process. We can help navigate you through some of the most important and detail-oriented tasks, such as what filing and notification deadlines need to be met, what documents the government requires and who needs to be informed of what. Often, an estate lawyer can shield the executor from liability by simply keeping them on track and in accordance with their legal obligations and duties. Serving as a communication buffer between them and beneficiaries is in many cases a blessing and saving grace to the Estate Trustee.
In my experience, those who attempt to manage this process alone usually end up taking longer to administer the estate than those following the guidance of a qualified professional with experience in this field.
Probate – What is it?
The term “probate” refers to the legal procedure of court-certifying the Estate Trustee. Being named in a Will is often not enough to authorize you to liquidate and or transfer all of the assets of the deceased. The probate process requires the named Executor to file an application with the Superior Court of Justice, who will then validate the Will and issue a Certificate of Appointment to the Estate Trustee. While this sounds simple, the probate process can be frustrating for people who attempt to apply on their own. The court’s registrar is meticulous with estate matters and nothing short of a perfect application will be accepted. One minor error or missing detail can cause weeks or months delays.
We at NIKA LAW LLP are experienced and qualified to assist executors to apply for probate, but we are often retained for the simple purpose of offering guidance and education to estate trustees as they administer an Estate. Whether the estate is relatively small and simple, or complex and litigious, let one of our team members relieve some of this burden for you.