Executing a will can be fraught with difficult tasks. For example, debts must be resolved before assets are distributed—and prolonged waiting can lead to anxious beneficiaries. Add grief to the mix and conflicts can readily bubble up, even causing loss of confidence in the executor. Here are “do’s and don’ts” to help executors avoid problems.
Mistakes To Avoid
Accepting the role of executor is not to be taken lightly: an executor has a long to do list and a fiduciary obligation to always act in the best interest of the estate and beneficiaries. No one wants to end up in probate litigation, so it’s essential for executors to keep beneficiaries up to date on the progress of settling the affairs of the estate. In fact, according to legal experts at JD Supra, the number one mistake for executors to avoid is “little or no communication with beneficiaries.” Keeping beneficiaries regularly informed on progress helps to ensure there are no misunderstandings when debts are resolved, assets valued, and, in the case of property—sold, prior to the distribution of funds to beneficiaries. Executors must of course keep careful documentation of all the transactions conducted on behalf of the estate: the probate court will expect an accounting as the process wraps up.
Among the other errors lawyers caution executors to avoid are:
-Neglecting to properly and completely inventory the assets of the deceased.
-Delaying inheritance beyond what the protocols of the probate process dictate.
-Allowing insurance on valuable assets to lapse or failing to ensure sufficient coverage. -Selling estate assets for less then they are worth.
-Claiming charges against the estate ahead of others
-Paying personal expenses with estate assets.
Given the gravitas of the role, executor bonds are often requested and can even be required during the probate process. Essentially, an executor bond guarantees the faithful performance of the executor in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety Company makes it quick and easy to get an executor bond: get a quote online, fill in the information and enter a payment method. The bond can then be e-filed or printed from anywhere—even before leaving probate court.
Unless the estate is complicated, the probate process commonly takes a few months to a year. Many states have developed expedited processes, especially for modest estates. Unpaid taxes, debts, conflicts among family members or contested wills are examples of what can cause complexities and delays during probate. Ordinarily, as Ky Jurgensen of Hendershot Cowart P.C. explains:
The executor…is responsible for locating the will, filing it with the probate court, notifying banks, credit card companies, and government agencies of the decedent’s death…and representing the estate in court.The executor must…set up a separate bank account for the estate, file an inventory of the assets…give notice of the estate and a copy of the will to the beneficiaries, and take care of all assets until they can be distributed…The executor must pay the decedent’s debts and taxes, distribute assets according to the will, and dispose of other property.
…The executor has a duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries… This fiduciary duty is first and foremost to the decedent’s wishes…As part of their fiduciary duty, the executor must…act like a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances, act impartially, and be honest and fair…
Probate experts point out that executors can face bumps in the road, ranging from resolving family conflicts to defending the will during litigation. For example:
The Executor of an estate may need to make controversial, or unwelcome, decisions that could impact the inheritance ultimately passed down to beneficiaries of the estate…If your estate lacks sufficient liquid assets to pay all approved claims, estate assets will need to be sold to pay those claims. Beneficiaries of the estate may not agree with the Executor’s decision regarding which assets to sell…The person who serves as… Executor…will need to have the ability to set aside, or at least compartmentalize, his/her emotions…and focus on the steps that must be taken to preserve …estate assets and initiate the probate process.
Managing family affairs and the probate process can be challenging—but Colonial Surety is here to help with a full portfolio of easy, speedy fiduciary bonds including: administrator, estate, executor, guardian, personal representative, probate, surrogate, trustee, conservator and more. Lawyers and their clients around the country rely on our fully digital fiduciary bond portfolio to reduce the time and expense typically associated with the bonding processes.
In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys . This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file all the court and fiduciary bonds needed to keep clients and cases moving forward. See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.