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The risks you accept as an estate executor

When a loved one recently died, you may have felt surprised and, perhaps, even honored to learn that he or she had named you as executor of the estate. On the other hand, it may have been no surprise if the deceased had wisely communicated his or her intentions of leaving you with the duty to guide the estate through its final phases. In either case, the deceased must have had great faith in you to entrust you with the responsibility.

As executor of an estate, you have many obligations. It is your duty to locate and secure the assets, open the probate process, notify the heirs and pay any lingering debts. After these and other items, you may distribute the assets as the deceased wished. Of course, as with many legal procedures, it is not always that easy, and it is wise for you to prepare for the worst that can happen during the probate process.

Problems you may face

The first problem many estate executors do not realize is that the job of administrating an estate can be very time-consuming. You may find that you must put your own life and responsibilities on hold while you deal with matters such as filing your loved one's final tax forms, contacting th Social Security Administration to stop benefits, and cancelling subscriptions, services and utilities, just to name a few responsibilities. Other factors that may complicate your job as executor include the following:

  • Heirs who refuse to wait until probate is complete before they take assets
  • An estate plan that names more than one executor, requiring you to work with someone who may not understand your methods or the process
  • Heirs who dispute the way you are carrying out your duties
  • The risk of making a mistake when paying outstanding debts, which may leave you personally liable for any losses
  • The impatience of heirs who do not understand that probate takes time, especially if it involves estate taxes
  • Heirs or others who decide to challenge the contents of the estate plan
  • Keeping track of your personal expenses and hoping the estate has the funds to reimburse you

The duties of an estate executor often require a thick skin and a firm demeanor. This can be challenging when dealing with family members and loved ones. At a difficult time like the days and weeks following the death of a loved one, you have other things to focus on. You may find it gives you peace of mind to enlist the services of an experienced Pennsylvania attorney who can skillfully guide you through the estate administration process.

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