Realizing that you were named the executor of a will is sometimes shocking. It comes with a huge sense of responsibility knowing how complicated probate can be. You would be responsible for liaising with the court, filing certain legal documents, handling assets and funds which are not yours and even making decisions about selling some, and disbursing the overall estate amongst the beneficiaries as you have been instructed by your deceased loved one. During this whole probate process, many executors make mistakes that end up being detrimental to their position as an executor and also the estate. The family can petition to remove the executor if grave mistakes are made.
As an executor, the best way to avoid mistakes while probating an estate is to be aware of the possible mistakes you can make as an executor. So what then are these common mistakes executors make?
4 key mistakes executors make
1. Not fully understanding your roles as an executor
One of the gravest mistakes you can make is going headlong into probate without knowing exactly what you are expected to do. The role comes with legal liabilities so you should be very careful before making any step in order not to entangle yourself in the long ropes of the law.
As the executor named in the will, you are expected to file a petition along with the original Last Will to the probate court in the county where the deceased owned asset. If the court accepts you as the executor, you will then have to take note of all the assets in the estate, settle estate tax and creditors, liquidate assets, and disburse what’s available according to the Will.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by these tasks. If you do not feel up to it, possibly because you are also dealing with the grief of losing the person, the family would understand if you decline the role. You read right. You are not bound by law to accept the nomination as the executor. You should only accept it if you feel up to it.
2. Keeping the family in the dark
You may feel that you know what you are doing and so you have no need to communicate with the family and beneficiaries of the deceased, but this is a wrong thing to do. It is not enough to just keep striking off the items on your probate to-do list while the people who you are working for are in the dark. Communication is paramount during probate as the beneficiaries would want to know your progress and what steps you’re taking.
Speaking with them can also helps them understand the challenges you are facing and how long they would have to wait before they receive their inheritance. With such transparency, they have fewer tendencies to suspect foul play. And you know if they suspect you of fraud, they may litigate, leading to more problems.
Although you have authority to act in the best interest of the estate and beneficiaries, it is good you consult them if you feel like selling a property. They may have a thing or two to say.
3. Not strictly adhering to instructions
Although there are legal benchmarks, different courts may have different regulations surrounding the probate process. These regulations are rigid and you must comply with them to the letter. For example, the court would not allow you to give out any piece of property until you have reached that final stage of disbursement. No matter how desperately the beneficiary needs it, you must follow the legal probate process and not emotions.
You must be ready to adhere strictly to their regulations and instructions if you want to effectively and seamlessly carry out your roles.
4. Not seeking professional help
Unless you are well experienced in probating estates in the past, you should not attempt to go it alone. Even when you have basic idea about probate and your responsibilities as an executor, there are still some things you would need professional guidance on. Probate is legal and as such requires several legalities like forms to fill, dealing with creditors, filing tax return forms, and the likes. It becomes important that you seek legal guidance from a probate attorney near you. They work for the best interest of the estate to ensure that you efficiently perform your roles without mistakes, the wishes of the deceased are implemented, the beneficiaries receive the maximum possible amount they can receive, and complications like litigation are mitigated. You should not worry about their payment; it comes from the estate and not your pocket.
For your best interest, contact a probate attorney for assistance.
Get help from an attorney
The greatest mistake you can make during probate is to go it alone. Having a legal professional working with you helps you to avoid all other mistakes. Get help by contacting a probate attorney near you.