If someone you know named you in their estate plan as the person to handle their affairs when they died, you are the executor of their estate. The courts could also appoint a personal representative of an estate if the testator failed to take that step or if the person they named cannot assume the role of executor.
There are numerous risks that come with the responsibility to administer an estate. Obviously, going to probate court and distributing somebody’s property will consume a lot of your time and energy for the foreseeable future. Your role can strain your personal relationships, as you may catch people trying to steal from the estate or face inappropriate requests from some family members.
Your position also puts you at risk of financial liability. You could be held personally accountable for taxes and debts if you improperly manage estate assets. It could take weeks of litigation to resolve complaints made by beneficiaries against you. Do you have to pay with your own money to have a lawyer represent you as the executor or representative of an estate?
No, the estate will pay for representation
If every person who served as an executor or personal representative had to pay for their own legal representation, it would be prohibitively difficult for those planning their estates to find people willing to carry out their last wishes.
North Carolina’s probate laws allow for executors to receive payment from the estate for their services. The estate typically also has to cover the cost of legal representation for the executor. Provided that you maintain the appropriate documentation, you can use estate resources to pay for the cost to retain a lawyer. Even if there aren’t enough assets to cover all of a testator’s debts, you can expect estate assets to help pay legal costs related to probate.
The right support will help you understand your responsibilities and appropriately fulfill them so that you don’t have any personal financial risk related to your duties. You don’t have to pay out of pocket to protect yourself when you accept the extra work and responsibility that comes with administering someone’s estate.
Knowing your rights and responsibilities during the probate process can help minimize the risk involves in settling someone’s affairs after their death.