Probate Question

I know - I’m not your client, you’re not my lawyer, yadda yadda.

My mother died about ten days ago. I’m co-executor of her will along with my step-father. On Friday we met with the lawyer who drafted her will. He said that by law we’re required to cash in her IRA an CDs immediately, regardless of the state of the market and place the cash in a new escrow-type account until all debts are paid (not many). The value of the IRA has gone down about $30K in the last couple weeks. Her beneficiaries (me and my sibs) would prefer to wait to see if the market regains much before we cash out everything, and the CD has a couple months before maturing.

Are we required to liquidate everything immediately? I’m in Tennessee, if that makes a difference. If the consensus is that we aren’t, can we hire someone else to help us?



IANALawyer, but we had no such requirements with either of my parents or my aunt (my sis was executor of that), or an uncle (I am currently his executor).

The laws vary widely from state to state, however. I will do a bit of hunting and see if I can find anything specific to Tennessee.

Do the terms of the will specificy anything be done with the IRAs or CDs? Is it possible he meant that the will called for this – rather than this had to be done by law no matter what the will says?

Oh, yeah, do you have a copy of the will? Unless the will specifies that this particular lawyer be used for the estate’s legal work, absolutely you can go to a different lawyer.

Um IANALawyer, still, but it makes no sense the the lawyer has some kind of ownership rights to handling a document he was paid to create.

I’d ask the probate judge in your county, too. He/She usually knows about these kinds of things.

I found this Tennessee state government web page with FAQs that says:

I was able to call the County clerk’s office for my uncle’s case, and get very fast and straightforward answers.

I’m sorry about your mom.

I didn’t have to rush to liquidate my mom and brother’s estates, but they were in Washington State.

But I can’t imagine why the lawyer would insist that you do this unless it’s required, if only because some estate lawyers charge their fee based on the size of the estate. Liquidate now = smaller estate.

Maybe you could ask him to explain why you need to do this. You’re a Doper – go ahead and ask for a cite.

According to the will, my siblings and I split everything (although not quite equally, based on money previously blown by some of my Prodigal Siblings). But we’re all unanimous in wishing to let the market settle before getting our shares, and there’s enough in other accounts to pay what few bills she had. I’m thinking that the lawyer just wants to settle everything as quick as he can, less work for him. Although since I’m sure he’s billing the estate by the hour, I don’t see why he’d do that.

Boyo Jim - Thank’s for the heads up about the county clerk’s office. I do have a copy of the will, and it doesn’t specify that we use a specific lawyer. In fact, we’d be tempted not to use a lawyer at all, except that my step-father thinks estates over a certain dollar amount need lawyers.


I had a lawyer friend here tell me that I could do this all myself, but as my uncle’s estate is in another state, I hired one there, as much for convenience as anything else. Plus, I want to be damn sure that all the necessary paperwork and reporting to the court is handled correctly. I think your step-dad is right, if you define “need” as being for peace of mind rather than as a strict legal requirement.

Regarding IRA distributions, you might find this helpful, or not:

Also, it appears that at least some Certificates of Deposit have a limited period after the owner’s death during which they can be cashed out without penalty: