Here’s a hypothetical situation: your elderly aunt died and left a will in which she named you as her personal representative.
You remember agreeing to take on that task, but you are not sure what the work involves. Here are six mistakes to avoid in your role as executor.
1. Underestimating your responsibilities
Your job is to administer your aunt’s estate. You will file her will with the probate court, pay her bills and file her final tax returns. As you wind up the business of the estate, you will also distribute assets to beneficiaries per the terms of the will. Be sure that you understand your duties, because you may be legally liable for any errors.
2. Going too fast
The administration of a decedent’s estate takes months, not weeks. Trying to rush through it could result in mistakes. Remember that as an executor, you must act in “good faith” at all times.
3. Failing to follow court instructions
From the moment you file the will with the probate court, there will be rules and regulations to follow. An attorney can help you comply with instructions from the court.
4. Not keeping in contact with beneficiaries
The beneficiaries of your aunt’s will can be demanding at times because their impatience may get the better of them. Stay a step ahead by maintaining regular contact with beneficiaries so they are always aware of what you are doing at what stage of the work.
5. Not staying organized
The more complex the estate, the more organized you must be, but even the administration of a small estate will require an organized approach. If you make lists, keep paperwork in order and everything in its logical place, your job will not seem so overwhelming.
6. Failing to ask for help
Your aunt may have chosen you as her executor because you have a good business sense or simply because of your common sense. Do not hesitate to ask for help from professionals like accountants and appraisers as well as ongoing legal assistance to ensure that you make no missteps in your role as executor.