As an executor, do you have to pay for your own lawyer?

| Apr 21, 2021 | Probate Litigation

There is so much involved in being an executor for someone’s estate that it is essentially a full-time job. You may need to devote dozens of hours of your life to handling paperwork, making phone calls and resolving financial issues.

In addition to all of that work, an executor takes on certain risks, like the potential for creditors and government taxation authorities to hold them responsible for unpaid debt and taxes. Handling the process carefully is crucial. An executor may need help reviewing the estate plan and making sure that they comply with all of their legal obligations.

Hiring a probate attorney could be expensive, especially if you find yourself facing challenges or probate litigation. Will you have to foot the bill for an attorney on top of giving up so much of your time?

Ohio state law recognizes the work of an executor

Although handling someone else’s estate is often a thankless job, that doesn’t mean there aren’t directions for executives. Specifically, Ohio’s probate laws allow an executor to retain an attorney when necessary and to use funds from the estate to cover the cost of their representation.

Whether an executor needs a lawyer to review the estate plan for legal issues or they have to defend themselves from a challenge in court, it is the assets from the estate that will pay for those costs. An executor should not have to use their own resources if they need legal help while handling someone else’s final wishes.

The estate will cover reasonable attorney costs

State law gives an executor the authority to claim reasonable legal costs and other necessary fees from the estate, likely before they begin distributing any property to the beneficiaries of the estate. What is reasonable is subjective, so executors could be at risk of people claiming that they wasted resources unnecessarily.

Keeping careful documentation of what services the estate pays for is an important step for an executor. Without an explanation for why someone billed you for 15 hours of legal advice, beneficiaries might try to challenge your costs as unreasonable or excessive.

Keeping records is usually one of the most important protective steps an executor can take when they worry that someone might challenge their actions or their role.

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