It’s a common misconception that it is an attorney’s job to deliver the inheritance to a Will’s
beneficiary. In reality, most Wills name an Executor – often the spouse or a trusted friend – who
is then appointed by the probate court to be in charge of distributing the assets. If the decedent
doesn’t have a Will, then the petitioner who opens the case will name an Executor. In this case,
the petitioner is usually the Executor.
An Executor must be organized and detail-oriented, as his or her job is to locate and collect the
assets, and also make sure all the debts and taxes associated with the estate have been paid.
Sometimes, Executors may run into issues such as Medicaid or a mortgage company placing a
claim on the estate. In this scenario, Medicaid and the mortgage company are “creditors and
debtors,” whose claims must be resolved before the beneficiaries can receive their share of the
Executors may also run into difficult or greedy beneficiaries who may try to invalidate the Will.
Or the beneficiary may try to hire his or her own lawyer to petition for a larger share of the estate
than what was originally given to him or her. In cases like these, the Executor also cannot
distribute the estate until the lawsuit or opposing petition is closed. It’s only after there are no
more complaints that the Executor can go ahead and perform the rest of his or her duties.
Of course, if you want to avoid the probate process entirely, it will be worth your time to
consider setting up a trust with an estate planning attorney. By doing this, you can ensure that
your friends and family will never have to go through the probate process and that all of your
assets can be passed safely to the people you name, without contesting, and without conflict.