My own layman’s guide, born of my own experience and observations – Part 6
It is perfectly legal and acceptable for the executor to hire an estates attorney. Do you need an attorney? I don’t know. It would be good to at least have a consultation with an estates attorney before you decide to take the DIY approach. Planning the funeral and working through the assets could be headache enough without having to do the necessary paperwork to liquidate the assets, file the inheritance tax papers, prepare the accounting, and distribute the proceeds. Also, if you have an attorney, you won’t be “the bad guy” in the eyes of other heirs.
When you interview potential attorneys, ask how long it is likely to take to wrap things up. Then, keep them accountable. Some attorneys ask for a retainer up front, and invoice monthly as time and filing fees mount. Some attorneys will tell you a flat fee up front. When this is the case, be sure to ask what circumstances might require additional payment. Always ask exactly what will be required of you!
A good estates attorney can handle the liquidation of assets. This would include financial assets as well as real property or other assets. The attorney can also navigate the transfer of real property, even if the property is in other states. Your estates attorney will take care of all interaction with the Surrogate’s office. They can also engage an accountant to prepare the various tax forms, though some larger estate attorneys do this in-house with an on-staff accountant. Best of all, your attorney will handle any and all correspondence with the IRS and State of New Jersey.
Any trusts? Any long lost heirs? Any bad blood between heirs? Save the headache: Get an attorney.