Mistakes to Avoid if You’re an Executor of an Estate
Being the executor of an estate is an important role. While some people appoint the family attorney, or an appointment is left up to the court, many people rely on a trusted family member or friend to act as the executor. While it’s gratifying to know that your loved one trusted you with this responsibility, the task can feel daunting. It’s easy to fall into certain pitfalls that can create problems for the estate and the family, and you could even find yourself in legal hot water. Continue reading for tips on what not to do when acting as executor of an estate. For considered advice and assistance, call a knowledgeable Vancouver probate and estate administration attorney.
Not Understanding What You’re Getting Into
Administering an estate is no small task. The named executor should not go into the process blindly without an appreciation for what they will need to do. Do your research on the duties and responsibilities of an executor, as well as the legal liabilities for taking action that harms the estate. If you are not sure that being the executor of the estate is in your wheelhouse, or if you’re simply uncomfortable with the responsibility, you can decline the appointment.
Making Distributions Too Early
There’s an order of affairs when administering an estate. Creditors should all be paid, in order of priority, before distributions can be made. Heirs and beneficiaries are entitled only to what is left after all of the debts have been paid. If the executor makes distributions to beneficiaries before paying off the debts, and there’s not enough left in the estate to pay off creditors, the executor could find themselves personally liable for any outstanding debts. The executor will not be liable if they pay creditors in order of priority but there’s simply not enough in the estate to cover all debts.
Failing to Follow Court Mandates
The probate court dictates rules and regulations about the estate administration process. An executor who fails to follow the requirements dictated by the court can find themselves in trouble with the court and the law.
Not Filing Proper Tax Forms in a Timely Manner
State and federal estate tax returns can be complex. Even executors who have a handle on the tax forms may be unaware of certain strategies that can be used to minimize estate taxes and maximize distributions to beneficiaries. Executors may also simply forget to file tax forms on time among the myriad other duties of the executor. Waiting too long to file estate taxes can lead to unnecessary penalties and interest.
Trying to Do it All Alone
There are a lot of opportunities throughout the estate administration process to make costly mistakes, especially if the executor is not an attorney, an accountant, or otherwise intimately familiar with legal and financial matters. You’re not expected to handle everything on your own. You can hire a probate or estate administration attorney to help you through the process, ensuring that all T’s are crossed and I’s dotted. Protect yourself against liability and ensure that your loved ones get the maximum amount of the estate possible with help from a probate lawyer.
Call Vancouver Attorney John Lutgens for Help Managing an Estate in Washington State
For savvy and effective assistance with estate planning in Vancouver or elsewhere throughout Washington, contact Vancouver estate and probate lawyer John Lutgens for a no-cost consultation at 360-693-2119.