An executor of an estate can easily get into trouble for not doing certain things, but an executor can also find themselves in trouble if they do certain things. An experienced estate planning attorney can help with navigating the do’s and don’ts of the executor’s tasks.
There are no lack of guidelines to help an executor or personal representative of an estate to understand the specific tasks and responsibilities that he or she has when managing an estate. Most guides, available online, at personal finance websites, in magazines and books, are written with an eye to the positive and provide a good outline of the tasks that need to be taken.
That can leave a lot of important information out, however, if the executor is not also given advice about what not to do doing during the process.
Recently, the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog published a list of some of thing things that should not be done in an article titled, "Seven Things Personal Estate Representatives Should Avoid Doing."
The list includes:
- Distribute Assets Early – Do not distribute any estate assets until all assets and potential debts are accounted for.
- Use Estate Assets for Personal Issues – This will lead to having to pay the estate back at best and criminal charges at worst.
- Ignore Taxes – Make sure all applicable taxes are paid.
- Disobey Court Orders – If the judge in the case tells you to do something, you must do it.
- Distribute Assets Before Paying Bills – Pay the estate's liabilities before distributing anything to heirs.
- Ignore Claims Against the Estate – Creditors cannot be ignored unless a court says to do so.
- Proceed Without an Attorney – Having the assistance of an estate attorney is the best way to make sure that everything is done properly and that mistakes are not made.
That last point is essential to steering clear of missteps.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (July 25, 2015) "Seven Things Personal Estate Representatives Should Avoid Doing."