Serving as the executor of an estate doesn’t just mean doing a lot of uncompensated, thankless work. It might also mean putting yourself at risk for financial and even legal consequences.
As an executor, you are in a somewhat vulnerable position. Getting help early in the probate process can ensure that you handle things properly and comply with the law. Careful compliance with state law and the terms of the estate plan or last will can make the difference between doing things well and leaving yourself open to consequences.
You could be responsible if creditors don’t deceive repayment
There are quite a few obligations for the executor during the probate process. You’re going to need to get the utilities and other bills settled or switched to a new person’s name. You will need to file taxes on behalf of the deceased, and you will also need to settle all of their outstanding debts.
In some cases, there will be enough money in various accounts to cover the debts and taxes owed by the testator. Other times, you may need to sell physical assets in order to repay those debts. You have an obligation to repay creditors and pay any outstanding taxes before you distribute any sort of assets to the beneficiaries. If you fail to do so, those creditors or the IRS could potentially take legal action against you.
You could face challenges if you make mistakes
If the family members or heirs of the deceased are unhappy with your work, if they think things have been handled improperly or if they think they have grounds for a challenge, you could wind up defending your actions in probate court. Keeping careful records and having proper guidance throughout the process can help you navigate this process successfully.
Working with an experienced attorney can sometimes lessen the burdens on an executor. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out.