The ideal executor is calm, understanding, trustworthy, detail-oriented, understands relationships and has a good deal of financial savviness. It takes a great amount of responsibility in settling an estate, and as executor, you are in the middle of making sure of a smooth probate process.
Now, you must focus on the task at hand and do the job that sometimes may require more than the best of your abilities. For some executors, the role may be uncharted territory, so relying on insight from an attorney is logical. However, sometimes, executors make mistakes. You want to avoid making any dunderheaded moves in settling an estate.
Showing favoritism, ignoring beneficiaries
If you do not think you are able to perform executor duties, decline the role. But if you have accepted those duties, understand that things can go smoothly or turn into a rollercoaster ride. It remains in your best interest and the best interest of beneficiaries that you avoid making the following mistakes:
- Thinking you know every aspect to cover: This is not a good time to be a know-it-all. You have a solid resource in an attorney so do not fail to turn to him or her if you have questions and concerns. Yes, be mindful of attorney’s fees, so accomplish the tasks for which you are capable. However, do not hesitate to talk with an attorney.
- Ignoring beneficiaries and keeping them in the dark. Listen closely to beneficiaries. Since you have a fiduciary duty in representing them, keep them informed about the goings-on while settling the estate. You represent them, so make sure you focus on their best interests and perform the duties they ask you to do. Otherwise, they can replace you.
- Becoming passive: The role of an executor has many responsibilities. Now is not the time to sit back, relax and take on a passive role. You must take action as you move forward with settling the estate and closing it.
- Showing favoritism for certain beneficiaries: This is a deal-breaker and definitely brings a conflict of interest to the forefront. Your obligation is to all beneficiaries, not just one. You also are there to resolve disputes, not create them. And that is what will happen if you curry favor with any beneficiary.
- Failing to grasp your stake in personal liability: As executor, you are on the hook for what happens. If matters go wrong during the estate settlement, you could be personally liable based on your actions and inactions. In such a scenario, your assets may be at risk. The judge may hold you accountable and require you to repair the damages you caused.
If you accept the executor role, that means you have carefully thought through this decision and feel that you are more than up for the responsibilities. Take those responsibilities seriously.