The main reason most people serve as an executor is to honor the deceased person's request. However, the executor is also entitled to payment. The exact amount is regulated by state law and is affected by factors such as the value of the deceased person's property and what the probate court decides is reasonable under the circumstances. Commonly, close relatives and close friends (especially those who are inheriting a substantial amount anyway) don't charge the estate for their services.
Not always. Doing a good job requires persistence and attention to tedious detail, but not necessarily a law degree. If assets must go through probate court, the process is mainly paperwork. In the vast majority of cases, there are no disputes that require a decision by a judge and the executor may never see the inside of a courtroom. It may even be possible to do everything by mail. (To learn more about the duties of an executor, see Nolo's article What Does an Executor Do?)
An executor can probably handle the paperwork without a lawyer if he or she is the main beneficiary, the deceased person's property consists of common kinds of assets (house, bank accounts, insurance), the will seems straightforward, and good self-help materials are at hand. If, however, the estate has many types of property, significant tax liability, or potential disputes among inheritors, an executor may want some help.
One good resource is The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), which guides executors through the process of winding up a loved one's estate, step by step.
Basically, there are two ways for an executor to get help from a lawyer:
Yes. Here are some other sources of information and assistance.
The executor (called a personal representative in some states) is the person named in a will or appointed by a court to wind up the person's financial affairs after death. Basically, that means taking care of property, paying bills and taxes, and seeing to it that assets are transferred to their new rightful owners. If probate court proceedings are required, as they often are, the executor must handle them or hire a lawyer to do it. (For more on probate, see Nolo's Probate FAQ.)