Being selected as executor of a beloved family member’s will is seen by many as a great honor. However, the process can be fraught with personal repercussions if your actions – or inactions – cause something to go wrong with the estate.
That means you can be held personally responsible for any errors or wrongdoing, and the probate court can require that you pay for any damage out of your own pocket. Your first step after being named executor should be to consult with a probate attorney.
Common executor errors and improper acts
Executors have a long list of actions they must take after a benefactor dies. First, they must secure the decedent’s home and other assets, send the will to probate, notify beneficiaries and file income tax and estate tax returns. Above all, executors must be honest and fair and avoid these mistakes:
- Self-dealing: While it might be tempting to buy a coveted possession of the decedent’s at a bargain price, the court and beneficiaries will likely object to this breach of fiduciary responsibility.
- Favoritism: Putting one beneficiary’s interests ahead of others is also a breach of duty when administering a will and will likely get you removed by the probate court.
- Failure to act: An executor’s role is to move the estate forward and close it as expediently as possible. Unfortunately, despite notices from attorneys and beneficiaries to proceed, many executors refuse to take any action.
- Family disputes: While a loved one may have entrusted you with the executor role, it does not give you the power to exact revenge against others over past family drama. Remain humble and be fair to everyone.
- Ignoring beneficiaries: Regardless of whether you get along with every beneficiary, you have a fiduciary duty to everyone in the will. That means keeping them in the loop. If you ignore their questions or concerns, they can ask to have you removed.
Protect yourself and your loved one’s legacy
In many cases, being an executor can be a thankless job, and anyone who is designated for the role should be honest with themselves about whether they can fulfill the duties and workload. Many of those concerns are put to rest with help from an experienced probate lawyer.