When a loved one has died, the shock and sorrow of their loss may quickly lead to another emotional jolt – the prospect of having to settle their estate. Being named personal representative (executor) under someone will be both an honor and a burden. The process usually takes several months. There will likely be financial accounts to marshal, real estate to deal with, bills and taxes to pay, and probate filings to prepare – all at an emotionally difficult time.
For many personal representatives, their first question is “How can I get out of this?”
The good news is that a probate attorney can provide the necessary support and expertise to ensure that the estate is managed efficiently. In fact, an experienced lawyer can handle most of the tasks the personal representative would otherwise be responsible for. After passing these administrative duties over a member of the bar, the personal representative may well feel that a great burden has been lifted from their shoulders.
When it comes time to have your own will prepared, you can name a probate attorney as your personal representative and spare your loved ones from the burden of settling your estate. Especially for those of us in the LGBTQ community, this can be an attractive option for three important reasons.
First, in addition to providing legal expertise, a lawyer can help ensure that your wishes are respected. Settling an estate often triggers disputes among family members. This can be especially true in families with strained relations. Animosity might stem from a relative’s disapproval of the decedent as a member of the LGBTQ community or from simple family dysfunction.
Either way, a lawyer can help prevent disputes by acting as a buffer between members of your family and other beneficiaries. And as a point of contact for the estate, the attorney will explain the administration process and the instructions under your will – all without the emotional baggage that often exists between blood relations. The result is often a smoother and less contentious administration process than when a family member serves as personal representative.
Second, naming a probate lawyer as your personal representative can also save time and reduce stress for your loved ones. Estate administration can be a long and burdensome process, and a non-lawyer will likely find it physically and emotionally draining. A lawyer can help streamline the process and handle the legal aspects of the job, allowing your loved ones to focus on grieving and self-care.
Third, a lawyer can help avoid costly mistakes. Estate administration involves many important decisions, such as deciding what assets to liquidate, whether to improve a house before selling it, and choosing a fiscal tax year. At each step along the way, making the wrong choice can have significant financial consequences. A lawyer can help prevent expensive misjudgments and ensure that your estate is settled in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.
Settling an estate can be a complicated and emotionally challenging process. Fortunately, there is a way out. Put a lawyer in charge and make life easier for the people you care about most. Contact an estates and trusts attorney to get started.
Lee Carpenter is a partner at the Baltimore law firm of Niles, Barton & Wilmer and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. He can be reached at 410-783-6349 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about LGBT estate planning at mdlgbtestateplanning.com.
This article is intended to provide general information, not specific legal advice.