If you’re asked to serve as someone’s executor or personal representative, you should take some time to think about the position carefully. Though being an executor is not difficult, especially if you have a knowledgable guide to the probate process, the position does impose legal responsibilities on you. If you make mistakes while serving as executor, these can have significant consequences on your life. Here’s a list of some of the more egregious errors you can make as an executor, as well as the possible repercussions.
Mistake 1: Jumping the gun.
An executor is responsible for paying any estate debts, as well as distributing estate assets to heirs. However, you can only do this after you’ve finished specific steps, such as taking an accounting of all debts and assets and notifying potential creditors. If you start distributing funds too early, you can become personally liable for the mistakes.
Mistake 2: Forgetting about taxes.
Estate tax issues are a big concern to executors. It’s up to you to file the appropriate estate tax returns. If you don’t do this correctly, you could be responsible for any missed taxes and may even face criminal charges.
Mistake 3: Going it alone.
Though this may not be a requirement, you should never take on the job of an executor without finding a good probate attorney to assist you. Probate laws are notoriously complicated, and even if you devote all of your time to the estate you may still never be able to learn everything you need to know. Finding a local probate attorney to help you through the process should be one of the first things you do as an executor.