A parent or other elderly relative has passed away and appointed you as the executor of their estate here in Texas. It’s an honor that they bestowed their trust in you to oversee their last wishes successfully.
However, it can also seem like an overwhelming task when you look at the long to-do list, including securing their home and other assets, notifying beneficiaries, sending the will to probate and filing income and estate tax returns.
Prevent probate skirmishes
The first step as executor should be to consult with an experienced probate and estate administration attorney. You may also need the services of an accountant as well as financial and insurance advisors. There are common mistakes to avoid, such as:
- Not responding to beneficiaries: You have a moral and fiduciary duty to everyone involved in the process. Keeping them up to date and answering their questions is essential.
- Misunderstanding your role: Your loved one placed their trust in you to handle their affairs but being the executor does not mean you are all-powerful. Keep past family disputes or drama from influencing your actions.
- Failing to act: Too often, executors fail to take any action despite attorney notices to proceed and beneficiary requests to move the process forward. If you are not up to the task of closing the estate, don’t agree to be the executor.
- Favoring one beneficiary: Executors have an obligation to all beneficiaries. Putting the best interests of one above the others will only cause more problems and likely get an executor removed by the probate court.
- Self-dealing: It may be tempting to sell yourself a coveted item from your loved one at a below-market price, but that will likely be a major point of contention with beneficiaries and could be construed as a breach of fiduciary duty.
Protect your personal liability
Being named as an executor of a loved one’s estate is seen as an honor by most people, but it can be a thankless job for many. While executors are normally paid for their duties – either through a stipulation in the decedent’s will or under Texas probate law – it’s a role that can expose you to legal risks.
Your lawyer will help you navigate the complicated system and help protect you from taking actions that could make you personally responsible for mistakes, actions or inactions that jeopardize the outcome of the probate process.