America is a country of do-it-yourselfers - people who are handed a difficult task and say, "I don't need help. I'll figure this out myself."
Being named executor of a will is such an opportunity. Anyone can do it. You don't need an attorney. You will be all right - until you aren't all right.
It's good to have an attorney on hand in case you get into one of the many gray areas that haunt the probate process.
What if the estate seems to be right on the border between simple and summary?
What if you have read the will from top to bottom ten times, and it's still not clear what the decedent intended? Do you just guess?
What if the decedent's spouse says you just gave away a part of the couple's marital assets to someone else?
What if family members have made it crystal clear that if you decide one way instead of another, there will be a lawsuit challenging your decision?
What if the decedent hired a contractor to do a job, and then died in the middle of it?
What if the decedent was in trouble with the IRS?
What if one party insists you are working from the wrong will?
What if there is no will, or all you have to work from are notes on a cocktail napkin?
What if there are more outstanding debts than outstanding assets?
What if you have news for a family member that you know they will not like, and you are afraid to tell them?
What if the estate includes complex problems a family business or unusual investments?
At some point, you must present your decisions to the court. If you made best guesses, and hope they work out right, your work may have just begun.
The thing to remember, if you work with an attorney, you remain the executor. The lawyer can just be on hand when difficult issues - the dreaded "gray areas" -- arise.
My name is Roshni Desai, and I step in when executors no longer feel comfortable with doing it ALL by themselves. I provide guidance when things are muddled, or contradictory, or controversial. I have helped many individuals with the responsibility you now face. I can help you, too - as much or as little as you require.