My mom passed away two weeks ago. My dad passed away many years ago. Mom's will states that she wants everything to be split evenly among her four children. After her bills are paid the four of have discussed that we will split everything equally.
My condolences on your loss. The first question I would ask is: Did you take care of (or did your mother) your father's estate? As in, is there any property that would be held up in probate for your father's estate because it was technically never retitled to your mother or other family members? Assuming that is not an issue...
I am not an attorney in IA, but most states do not REQUIRE you to have an attorney to probate a will, but that said, it is often a good idea to have one. There are many steps involved in administering an estate, even if it is relatively small. Making an error can often times have repercussions later that can vary from mildly annoying to severe and costly. As the executor it is YOUR JOB to make sure the terms of the will are followed but that may entail getting competent advice from a local attorney to make sure you are making proper decisions. As the executor you also would be wise to protect yourself. Things may be copacetic now, but money can change people and lead to problems so your attorney will advise you to be certain everyone signs off on your actions.
This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website: http://www.stevenzelinger.com/
I'm sorry for your loss. I would just add that you are not executor of your mother's estate until the court appoints you as such. Until that time, you cannot do anything with your mother's property that was titled in her name only. You may have known this already, but many people do not realize the steps that need to be taken in this situation. That's why it is often worthwhile to find a good local attorney to spend an hour or two with initially, and then use as a resource as needed throughout the estate administration process, even if you do want to do most or all of the actual work yourself.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This post is provided for informational purposes only; does not constitute legal advice; and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
As the other responses have made clear, having a probate attorney is either required or, at a minimum, a very smart way to go. You can be personally liable for any mistakes you make. It is generally not worth it unless you have had experience handling prior estates and have a good feel for what needs to be done. The cost of the attorney comes off the top of the estate, so it is not your expense alone. If the attorney saves you from making one mistake, he/she can more than pay for the cost of the fees.
Is it POSSIBLE to do on your own? I would at least meet with a probate attorney to find out what is involved and then decide whether you think it is something you can take on. Most attorneys offer a low cost or free initial consultation. I would take them up on it.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
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