I’m Worried About the Estate Attorney

At executor.org, our goal is to empower you as an executor. You can create a custom plan of your 100+ steps in the process. It’s our most powerful tool to help you manage the executor process. You can learn your 15 primary duties as executor. You can even learn about common mistakes executors make

That said, one of the best partners an executor can have as they complete all of the many steps in the executor role is an estate attorney.  An estate attorney can navigate requirements of the probate court, advise on asset disposition, and even recommend other qualified professionals with a track record of helping executors with their duties.  

But what should you do when you worry that the estate attorney might not be doing a good job?  

An attorney might not respond to multiple messages or phone calls.  Or they don’t send you something they said they would.  Or you get notices that items for the court are still incomplete.

If you are worried that the estate attorney might not be doing their job according to their professional standards, it is reasonable for you to have an honest and frank discussion with them, telling them that your needs are not being met. Be prepared to provide specific examples of when you were dissatisfied so they can respond with relevant detail. For instance, if you just wished the process would move along faster, they may not be able to do more than they already are. Probate courts generally don’t move fast. But if they are not being responsive or you don’t understand their answers to questions, this can sometimes mean they are not fully engaged in your estate settlement. 

State Bar Associations can help

If you are still dissatisfied after having a discussion with them, you can contact the bar association in the particular state in which the attorney is located.  The state bar association in each state is the organization given the authority to license attorneys in that state and are also responsible for disciplining attorneys who are found to engage in wrongdoing.

Bar associations often have staff members you can talk with before filing an official complaint against an attorney.  They can help you understand an attorney’s professional duties and how an attorney might breach those duties.  

Don’t forget to document

If you think you might be in a situation where the estate attorney is not serving the estate for which you are the executor properly, you should document these things and keep records.  A phone call that takes a week to be returned might not be a problem, but a pattern of several weeks of unreturned calls might be, especially if it is to the point of preventing you from advancing in your executor duties because of needed filings with the probate court, for example.  

Usually estate attorneys are great to work with, but if an executor finds they are working with one who may be in violation of their professional duties, they have recourse through the state bar association.