14th Jan 2013
The Executor initiates the probate action and has himself or herself confirmed by the probate court as the Executor. The Executor of a Will takes charge of filing a Petition for Probate and gives notice to concerned parties of the hearing date. The Executor has the tasks of taking inventory of the assets of the Estate, paying current bills and settling any outstanding debts to creditors (including federal and state taxes). In the event that the Executor is strapped for cash to settle obligations, he may sell off assets to pay for the debts. Since his action may be contested by the heirs, the Executor has to seek the approval of the probate court for such actions. This can be stressful for the executor. Hence, he may need the help of an experienced probate attorney in California.
As the probate process draws to a close, the Executor will have to file a “Final Accounting” and “Final Petition for Distribution.” There will be a court hearing for the court to approve the final distribution. When the petition is approved, the Executor then takes care of distributing the remaining assets to the heirs and beneficiaries. When this is done, the Executor will be discharged of his duties.
These various duties and responsibilities can be tedious and time consuming. The probate process may take from 12 to 18 months to administer. (In a few extreme cases, it may take longer.) In discharging his duties, the Executor must exercise caution to ensure that proper records are maintained at all times. Of course the designated Executor will be compensated for all his efforts using a formula as stipulated by California law.
The law does not mandate the Executor to hire a lawyer. However, given the sticky issues that may come up along the probate process, the Executor would be well-advised to avail of one. In California, an experienced probate lawyer can assist him in navigating through the entire process. The probate attorney will not only have the legal competence but the skills necessary to mediate among contesting beneficiaries and claimants.
Since it is usual for spouses or children of the decedent to be appointed as Executors, the need to have a competent attorney will be very apparent. Executors should be prepared for the brickbats and whatever charges and criticisms may be hurled against him by beneficiaries and creditors. The Executor need not worry that he will pay the probate attorney from his own pocket. California law stipulates a formula for attorney’s fees. (It is actually the same rate as that of the Executor.)
Hence, during the entire probate process, the Executor will be helped if he has a professional and experienced California probate attorney who can assist him every step of the way in the protracted probate process. Only after the probate is closed will the Executor (and the attorney) receive their fees.