I'm the Executor for my mom's Will in Atlanta (DeKalb County). I've handled all the paperwork so far on my own with an occasional lawyer review. It's time to file the Petition to Discharge. I hired a probate lawyer to do the Final Return and calculate the final distributions and Executor Fee. I provided him with all bank accounts and a typed summary, but he keeps hitting snags and so far it has cost me a small fortune for him to correct his own errors and the amount still doesn't reconcile to the bank account balance. It's a small estate with only cash assets. Should an accountant be doing this instead? Does it have to be done on a specific form for the probate court? I'd do it on my own but want to make sure the distribution figures are correct for me and my 3 siblings/fellow heirs
I do these all the time. In fact, staff does a lot of the work. It shouldn't require an accounting degree. A good probate lawyer can handle it.
No attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by this communication. This answer is to be considered as a general discussion of legal principals and is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. If the asker seeks specific legal advice, he should retain an attorney, who will naturally take the time to consider all aspects of the case and perform any necessary legal research.
Really, you just have a tough decisions to make - one of those where there is no right answer. There are reasons to suggest moving on from the attorney you have been using (his errors, no guarantee that it will get better), however, hiring a new attorney or accountant and having him/her spend time becoming familiar with the estate will also cost money. (If you do hire someone else, a probate attorney should be able to handle and will have the probate law knowledge which is useful making an attorney the better option in my opinion). Another option could be to politely point out the issue of being charged to correct the attorney's errors and ask if you can come to a reasonable arrangement regarding being charged for this time. I find that if your approach is respectful and reasonable, many people are willing to work with you and maybe split the cost. While I think that it is reasonable for some time to be spent (billed) in revising, etc. of the accounting, if you have really spent a small fortune specifically on the time spent correcting errors, then I think that it would not be reasonable for the attorney to charge his full rate.
First of all, a final return is not required unless the court ordered you to file a final return. If your siblings are OK with your work thus far and will sign a Consent to Final Discharge, you should be able to simply file a Petition for Discharge. If the heirs will sign your Consent to Discharge when they get their last payments, then simply write the checks, get the consents and file the discharge papers. No accounting required.
If you need to prepare an accounting, a lawyer or accountant can handle it. There is a form that each probate court uses for the accounting. Stop by the Dekalb County Probate Court and get the required form.
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