Can the estate administrator represent the estate in a lawsuit instead of a lawyer?

Dear Ms. Allison: There is money owed to the estate I run. As administrator, can I file suit to recover and can I represent estate or do I have to have a lawyer? I am thinking this is like the right to represent yourself in court? This is in North Carolina. Anonymous in Raleigh

Dear Anonymous:

In all states, you have a right to represent yourself. However, it is highly inadvisable to do that. Lawyers have to study for many years to learn to do what they do, and I always wonder at people who think they can just pick it up on the fly. The time necessary to do the research on the process alone would be daunting to a new lawyer. Besides, as the court-appointed administrator, you are a fiduciary and in the eyes of the law, you can be held personally liable for any mistakes you make. The court will give you no sympathy.

Most people would never dream of removing the engine from their car, taking it apart, and putting it back together again. The skill set to do that maneuver is learned in significantly less time than it takes to develop the skill set to engage in litigation – a lawsuit, which is what you are proposing here.

Regardless, you are welcome to try.

Just keep in mind that, if the result of your efforts is less than favorable, the beneficiaries of the estate can sue you for not administering the estate properly. However, if you are the only beneficiary, you will have no one complaining except the little voice in your head telling you this was not your smartest choice in life.

That’s your question, Asked and Answered. My best to you,

Gale Allison

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