When you’re named as an executor of a Will, you’ll have a lot on your plate, and your responsibilities might seem overwhelming. However, this role is important and requires careful attention and consideration.
To help you fulfill your responsibilities as an executor, here are five common mistakes executors make and how to avoid them.
1. Not preparing for the process
If you’ve never served as an executor before, you may not understand what the process entails. It’s important to make sure you do your research if you’ve been asked to take on this responsibility. Learn more about anything that you don’t know and don’t be afraid to seek out as many potential resources as you can. This will help you to be better prepared to execute the terms of a Will.
In particular, make sure you understand the probate process and what it means to be a fiduciary — a person who acts in the best interest of someone else and legally owes them a duty of good faith, undivided loyalty, and honesty when making financial or legal decisions.
2. Disregarding the Court’s instructions
As an executor, you are responsible for honoring the decedent’s wishes while following the local Circuit Court’s rules. There are a lot of important regulations in estate law, from filing the Will with the correct probate court to the notification of the proper heirs, whether you can make payments to the creditors, how to pay the debts, and, lastly, how to document the distribution of any assets. In Virginia, each Circuit Court has its own set of required forms and processes, so you’ll want to be sure you thoroughly understand what is required at each stage of probate.
3. Not keeping in touch with beneficiaries
The executor of an estate must manage the assets and distribute them to the beneficiaries. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with the decedent’s heirs to make sure they’re up to date as you go through the process of executing their loved one’s estate.
Communicate with the beneficiaries at every critical juncture. It may also be wise to set up regular meetings with them, as this will help to manage the beneficiaries’ expectations and keep them aware of the time the process takes.
4. Moving too quickly
The tasks of an executor cannot be completed in a weekend — they require time and patience. The administration of an estate where accountings are required can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months on average to complete. Rushing the process could put you at risk for liability, as it is your responsibility to act in the decedent’s and beneficiaries’ best interests. Make sure you take your time and complete each part of the administration process correctly.
5. Not asking for help
Serving as an executor is not an easy responsibility. Often, you will need assistance from licensed professionals for various tasks. Any professional you hire is likely knowledgeable and will act in the best interest of the estate.
It’s wise to consider hiring an experienced attorney to help with all the legal aspects of estate administration. You may also require the help of an appraiser to go over the estate’s assets (if necessary) and an accountant to help with the tax filings for the estate.
If you want to learn more about what it takes to be an executor or need legal guidance with a probate matter in Virginia, The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor is here to help. Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation call today.