Model Law: A Blog About Legal Issues

Model Law: A Blog About Legal Issues

What Role Does a Lawyer Play in Deceased Estates?

by Susanna Phillips

Once someone passes on, their assets and property become their estate. Often, the deceased person leaves instructions—a will—which outlines what should happen to their estate once they die. Those who get the deceased assets and property are beneficiaries, and the assets and properties are known as an inheritance, a bequest or a legacy.

A will names an executor, who is assigned to administer the estate to the beneficiaries. Estate administration involves functions such as:

  • Paying the debts of the estate—for instance, the money can be used to pay funeral expenses, phone bill, mortgage payments and taxes.
  • Protecting the estate assets—for example, ensuring that the car and home of the deceased are maintained and that their bank accounts are managed effectively until the day they are transferred to the assigned beneficiaries.
  • Allocating the estate assets as outlined in the will—for instance, transferring the ownership of the deceased's business to the right beneficiary.

Additionally, the executor may also need to acquire a probate grant from the court. This is a court order that confirms the validity of the will and that the lawyer has the responsibility to allot the state as per the will. Note that the procedure for administering the estate may take a year or longer.

What's the attorney's role to an estate?

In most cases, an executor needs assistance from a deceased estate lawyer to efficiently oversee the estate. For instance, an attorney may apply for probate, advice the executor on matters like the tax liability of the deceased, find and collect the assets of the deceased and offer advice on how to pay the debts and distribute the remaining assets.

Sometimes the will may appoint the lawyer to be the estate's executor. In this case, the lawyer will have the same obligations as the executor. They will also be entitled to pay themselves for all the expenses they incur; the costs are part of estate allocation. This applies to ordinary executors as well. In case a charging clause isn't included in the will and the beneficiaries refuse to pay the executor for the expenses, the executor applies to the court to recover the fees.

Does the attorney have a duty to beneficiaries?

A deceased estate lawyer only acts on the instructions their client provides. The attorney doesn't have a specific duty to beneficiaries since the executor is the client—not beneficiaries. But a lawyer who's still the executor should take care of the beneficiaries as an executor and lawyer. The lawyer must always act in accordance with the set professional standards.

Reach out to a lawyer near you to learn more.


About Me

Model Law: A Blog About Legal Issues

Hello. I'm Mark and I am the manager of a successful modelling agency. It is my job to ensure that our models are well cared for and generate positive publicity for the agency. Sometimes that can be quite challenging and I spend a lot of time liaising with our legal team. From clients who refuse to honour contracts to models who are facing charges themselves, I am constantly dealing with legal issues. Over the years, I have become quite familiar with a range of laws and legal processes. My friends and family consider me to be a veritable fount of information when they have legal questions. I have decided to compose this blog in order to address the issues I most commonly deal with. Please browse at your leisure.