Most people don’t want to be the executor of an estate. It is a time-consuming job that often comes with little compensation. It can also put a lot of strain on your relationships with the other beneficiaries.
Still, you may feel honored to hold that position for someone you love and to carry out their last wishes after their death. While you may act out of love and kindness for others, you also take on some risks in the process.
Other family members and beneficiaries could challenge your actions or your position as executor if you make one of the common estate administration mistakes mentioned below.
Failing to act in a timely manner
Depression is a common consequence of grief. When you have lost someone you love, it can be hard to handle daily life, let alone take on new challenges with which you have zero personal experience.
There are a million possible reasons why you might procrastinate about taking certain steps, like filing paperwork with the probate courts. However, inaction is a common reason for people to challenge executors.
Not only do you need to initiate probate proceedings, but you also need to notify creditors, secure property and start managing finances on behalf of the estate. Failing to do so could have a negative financial effect on the estate.
Letting your personal biases show through in your behavior
Maybe you’ve always gotten along better with one sibling than with the others. Perhaps you feel strongly that one member of the family deserves more of an inheritance than others because of their difficulties in life.
Regardless of your feelings on the matter, you cannot deviate from the established estate plan for personal reasons. It is your job to fulfill the last wishes of the executor in compliance with their estate plan and state law. If family members can show that you have deviated from the estate plan or showed favoritism in the process of dividing assets, it might lead to your removal.
Treating the estate as an opportunity for profit
Regardless of whether or not the testator set aside assets to pay you for your work as executor, you should not attempt to directly profit from the administration of the estate.
You have a fiduciary duty to put the needs of the estate first. If you take steps that benefit you over the estate itself or its beneficiaries, that could constitute a violation of your fiduciary duty and lead to your removal from the position.
Learning about the rules of probate can make it easier for you to avoid common mistakes when handling the estate of a loved one.