The duties of an executor are critical to estate administration. A checklist of tasks includes settling the estate, settling disputes among heirs and paying creditors.
There really is no room for mistakes in an estate settlement, which may take more than a year. However, mistakes, oversights and questionable decisions sometimes surface among executors.
Simply failing to perform the duties
Here are some of the mistakes that executors may make:
- Keeping heirs and beneficiaries in the dark: The executor has a legal duty to keep everyone connected with the estate informed. Sharing updates on the probate process is essential.
- Failing to do the job: The executor role has many responsibilities that require prompt attention. For example, they must pay outstanding taxes and bills, track down heirs and distribute assets. This person must take this job seriously.
- Favoring certain heirs: An executor should not play favorites. Doing so by providing “under-the-table” assets could lead to this person’s removal.
- Ignoring or not understanding personal liability: If an executor fails to perform the necessary duties, he or she may face a lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty.
- Self-dealing: This borders on criminal behavior when an executor puts his or her interests before the interests of the estate. This person may decide that he or she is entitled to certain assets such as a car, boat, cabin and money. Expect another lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty.
A reliable, trustworthy, devoted and hard-working person should serve as executor. Do not tolerate sloppiness, avoidance and questionable judgment.
Seeking a solid conclusion
If you are uncomfortable as to how the executor performs or fails to perform the duties, you as beneficiary should promptly remove this person from this vital role in estate administration. You and the other beneficiaries want a satisfactory conclusion.