Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

5 Reasons You May Want to Hire an Attorney After a Loved One Dies

When a loved one passes away and you find that you are a beneficiary of his or her estate, you may not know whether you need an attorney or not. While there may already be an attorney involved, he or she is likely acting in the interest of either the executor (if there is a will) or the trustee (if there is a trust). So when should you consider hiring an estate planning attorney to represent you personally? Here are 5 reasons.

1. You question the validity of the will or trust.

If you have any doubts as to the validity of the will or trust, it may be a good idea to hire an attorney. He or she can help to challenge the legal document. In order for a will or trust to be legally valid, the creator must have had the capacity to establish it and must understand that they were doing so intentionally. Certain medical conditions, such as dementia, may impact an individual’s capacity depending upon the severity of their disease or disorder. The will or trust must also have been created without any undue influence or pressure from someone else.

2. There are no estate planning documents.

If your loved one died intestate (without a will and without a trust or any other writing designating his or her beneficiaries), the court will make a decision as to who should receive what. The rules for determining heirs differ from state to state and depend upon the state in which your loved one resided or died. If there is no will or trust and you are a close family member, you can initiate this process and request through an attorney that you are appointed as administrator of your loved one’s estate.

3. You are concerned about the executor’s or trustee's actions or ability to fulfill the role.

If you are concerned about the ability of the executor (for a will) or trustee (for a trust) to properly fulfill their duties you may consider consulting with an attorney. Things such as medical concerns or failing mental capacity may impact their ability to do their job correctly. Therefore you may want to hire an attorney to help you ask the court to replace this individual if they lack mental capacity. The attorney can also help you to establish a detailed list of the actions this individual has taken; the court may require this executor or trustee to explain any of his or her questionable actions.

One of the required duties of executors and trustees is to ensure that they communicate with the beneficiaries and keep them informed. Therefore if you aren’t receiving such communication, an attorney can also help you to request information, etc, from the individual appointed. Your attorney can also request that the executor or trustee provide an informal accounting of all property and debts as well as which steps they’ve taken thus far. If this isn’t enough, your attorney can also request a formal accounting on your behalf.

4. You need help understanding what you should receive under the will or trust.

Sometimes it can be confusing determining exactly what you are to receive under a will or trust. An attorney can help you to understand what you are entitled to and can help explain the laws to you. Therefore if you don’t understand what you are to receive, an attorney can help you to make sense of it all prior to you waiving the right to challenge the legal document.

5. You require assistance decoding a complex estate or trust.

As if all estate-planning documents aren’t somewhat complex, some estates are even more complex than others. In fact, certain estates or trusts require beneficiaries to receive and acknowledge the receipt of various legal documents. Sometimes the executor must obtain signed waivers of all named beneficiaries in order for in order to go through with the probate process and establish the document’s validity.

When a loved one has died, it’s important that you refrain from making the assumption that the documents are correct. While you’re not required to hire an attorney, hiring one can help you to understand what you are entitled to and how you can assert your rights.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California with their Estate Planning Needs

A qualified estate-planning attorney can listen to your wishes, provide legal advice, and assist you in determining what’s in your best interests.

At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting your rights. We can help you to contest an estate-planning document of your loved one. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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