When a loved one dies, the monumental task of managing their estate often falls on an executor. The decedent could have appointed this person on their will or the court may designate them if there is no existing will.
An executor must carry out the decedent’s wishes by overseeing the probate, which is the legal process of filing the will, notifying heirs, beneficiaries and creditors, keeping a list of assets and liabilities, paying remaining obligations and distributing the assets to intended recipients.
However, no matter how good-natured an executor is, they can still commit mistakes that can cause delays, disputes and legal challenges.
An executor must avoid these pitfalls
Grieving a loved one’s death is painful as it is. Unfortunately, the following pitfalls by an executor can exacerbate a family’s emotional distress.
- Not setting clear goals to prevent unrealistic expectations in terms of deliverables and timeline
- Neglecting proper documentation can cause mismanagement of financial transactions
- Failing to effectively and frequently communicate with all involved parties can lead to unfounded suspicion or tension
- Delaying tasks, such as accomplishing tax returns, can cause significant penalties and additional complications
- Mishandling funds, such as mixing the decedent’s estate with personal assets or using a portion of the estate for personal purposes, can result in fraud allegations
Virginia law recognizes that these potential pitfalls may happen at any time. With so much at stake, the state mandates that an executor can only exercise their power after taking an oath and providing a fiduciary bond. The bond holds the executor liable if they do not act in the decedent’s best interests.
Fulfilling an executor’s duties alone is a fatal mistake
Executorship can be rewarding when done right. Executors can assume the role properly by acknowledging that they need all the help they can to get it right. A legal team can assist them in navigating this complex arena.