The role of an estate executor is a complex one loaded with responsibility. If the recent death of someone close to you has placed you in this position, you can help yourself and other interested parties get through the legal process by avoiding a few common mistakes.
Failing to understand the sequence of steps
There are many steps in the probate and estate administration process. Getting these steps right is especially complicated for someone who bears a fiduciary responsibility such as the executor of the estate. For instance, some executors want to get on with the business of dispensing with estate assets as soon as possible, but this step is only possible if preliminary steps, such as appointing the executor through the court, have already been made.
Overlooking local nuances
Adding to this complexity is local variations on the probate process. Some counties prefer you use certain language on written forms and in oral proceedings. Failing to recognize these nuances can create delays and other problems.
Not keeping everyone informed
As the executor of an estate, you must keep beneficiaries and other interested parties updated on the progress of the probate process. This can be a very tricky undertaking, especially if there is acrimony between two or more of the parties. Keeping closer contact with one heir than another may result in hard feelings that can easily spiral into legal disputes. Remember, your responsibility is to the decedent who bestowed this authority upon you. You may have to stand your ground to make sure his or her wishes are carried through.
You face a big responsibility, but delaying and hoping legal matters will resolve themselves will only add time, grief and expense to the process. By taking immediate action and consulting with an attorney who is experienced in the probate and estate administration process, you can fulfill your obligations to the decedent and his or her loved ones.