An executor of an estate is an appointed individual who administers the last will and testament of a deceased person. These individuals spend long hours carrying out their detailed instructions, paying off the deceased’s debts, and managing their affairs. With so many tasks and responsibilities associated with a last will and testament, a lawyer can assist an executor with their duties and ensure no legal issues occur.
Serving as an executor is a significant responsibility and requires careful attention to detail. If something goes amiss, the executor may suffer legal consequences. If you find yourself serving as an executor, consider speaking with an attorney about how they can assist you through the probate procedures.
The Duties of an Executor of an Estate
Probate refers to the judicial process of accounting for the deceased’s assets, paying off their debts, and distributing their property according to the wishes stated in their will. An executor is responsible for various aspects of this complex court-supervised process, including the following tasks:
- Probating the last will and testament in court
- Finding beneficiaries
- Locating the deceased person’s assets
- Valuing real estate and personal property
- Setting up a bank account for the estate
- Paying off creditors
- Paying taxes
- Distributing the deceased’s property
- Wrapping up financial affairs
Depending on the situation, an executor may need to sift through countless documents and other pieces of information to carry out their duties. It is important to note that executors have a fiduciary duty to follow the deceased’s wishes and act in the estate’s and its beneficiaries’ best interests. If they fail to complete their responsibilities, they may be legally liable.
Common Mistakes Executors Make in the Probate Process
When navigating the complex probate process, an executor may unknowingly make a mistake that places the deceased’s estate and themselves at risk. To protect yourself in the complex process, consider the following common mistakes executors may make while performing their duties:
- Rushing the process
- Failing to organize documents
- Not keeping in contact with beneficiaries
- Not following court instructions
- Not asking for help
One of the ways to safeguard yourself and the deceased’s estate is to partner with an experienced attorney. Their knowledge and connections within the legal community will provide stability and reassurance.
Why Does an Executor Need an Estate Attorney?
A 2021 Estate Planning study conducted by SeniorLiving.org reported that only 46% of executors were aware of a will. Many individuals are kept in the dark about the location and contents of the will until an individual’s passing, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the sudden requirements and responsibilities.
An attorney will help steady your resolve and offer guidance throughout the process. Consider a few of the ways an estate attorney can help you:
- Guiding you through inventorying and valuating the estate
- Identifying potential legal issues and threats
- Paying the deceased’s debts
- Filing the required paperwork with the court by their deadlines
- Answering questions relating to the deceased’s estate
- Advising the executor on their many duties and responsibilities
- Assisting with final distributions to heirs and beneficiaries
The administration of an estate is a lengthy process and typically takes 9-12 months. As soon as you are designated as an executor, contact a lawyer about your duties and how they can assist your specific situation.
Speak With Attorney Cheryl L. Fratello for a Highly-Qualified Probate Attorney
Handling the numerous responsibilities of an executor is stressful without a solid support system. Our team at Fratello Law understands your challenges and has over 120 years of combined experience advising individuals through overwhelming estate planning situations. We provide attentive, compassionate legal services and build high-quality client relationships.
As a small firm with a big heart, we nurture a foundation of trust with our clients and will do everything in our power to protect your rights. Schedule a no-cost consultation by calling (631) 406-5580 or filling out our contact form today.