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Bundren Law Firm P.C. Bundren Law Firm P.C.

5 Tips for Executors During Probate

Serving Families Throughout Tulsa

Being the executor of someone's estate is a very important role that often comes with many challenges. The executor is legally responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased and distributing their assets according to their will. This process can be complex, time-consuming, and emotionally challenging – especially if you were close to the person who has passed away.

With that in mind, we’ve collected a few tips we believe would be helpful for any executor handling probate. Invest some time in reviewing these tips below and remember that you should always reach out to a professional probate lawyer for specific guidance on legal matters.

1. Understand That Probate Is a Lot of Work

Many people feel honored to be the named executors of their loved ones’ estates, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The first problem most people encounter, however, comes upon realizing just how much of their time and energy will be spent on administering a loved one’s estate.

This will be a lot of work, and it’s not something you can accomplish in a single weekend. Most probate cases don’t close for several months while complications can extend this timeline to a year or even longer.

You’ll be tasked with completing many important legal and financial matters, and you may feel wholly unprepared to handle it all on your own. Fortunately, however, you can always reach out to a professional – such as a probate lawyer – for the personalized guidance and support you require.

2. Understand Your Personal Liability Risk

Another aspect of being an executor that can catch people off guard is their exposure to liability. Executors are not just responsible for all of their duties; they are liable for them. Any mistake or misdeed on the executor’s part could put their own finances at risk.

For example, the executors could become liable for penalties and interest for failing to pay the proper amount of tax owed by the estate. If an heir to estate property believes the executor mishandled estate property or used it for their personal benefit, the executor may be sued for damages. Lastly, the executor could become liable for any valid debts owed by the estate that the executor didn’t pay with estate property.

While there’s no way to completely shield your personal liability when acting as an executor, having a legal professional help you throughout probate can minimize your exposure to risk. Should you face any legal claims related to your role as an executor, your attorney can help you defend yourself.

3. Get Organized & Keep Detailed Records

Executors should be highly organized and keep detailed records of their activities when administering an estate. This helps ensure that all aspects of the process are handled properly, while also providing a clear timeline to refer back to if needed or required.

It’s important to document every action taken throughout the administration of the estate, including any communications with beneficiaries, estate representatives, or other parties. Additionally, executors should keep a record of all financial transactions related to the estate. This includes deposits into and withdrawals from bank accounts, purchase and sale of assets, transfer of funds between accounts, payment of taxes and expenses as well as any other expenditures made on behalf of the estate.

Having accurate records can make the executor’s job much easier, as well as helping to protect them from any potential legal disputes that may arise. In addition, keeping detailed records of all activities will help expedite the probate process and reduce any delays that could result in financial losses for the estate.

4. Communicate Early & Often

It’s important for executors to be as communicative as possible throughout the estate planning process. This should include communicating with beneficiaries of the estate and other interested parties. It’s essential that they provide regular updates on the status of any financial or legal matters that are being handled in relation to the estate, or any changes that may have occurred since the last communication.

Being open and honest in all communication is key, as it can help to ensure that everyone involved is kept fully informed of developments. Executors should also be prepared to answer any questions that beneficiaries or other interested parties may have about the estate and its progress. This will enable them to better understand their rights and responsibilities as part of the estate, what to expect, and potentially avoid any disputes or misunderstandings further down the line.

5. Don’t Rush to Distribute Assets

When you’re the executor of someone’s estate, everyone else knows that you have the power to give them their inheritance. Your relatives may be eager to receive it, but you should resist any pressure to distribute estate property until you’re ready to do so.

Your most important reasons for waiting on distributions are to ensure the estate can pay its taxes and its creditors. If it can’t, and distributions were made before settling those debts, you can become personally liable for the estate’s debts. That can cause extreme financial hardship for you.

If it seems like your relatives are eager to get their inheritance, it’s important to remember the previous tip: communicate. Tell them that you need to be sure that all of the estate’s financial responsibilities are settled before you can distribute property. If you have any doubts about how exactly to communicate this, you can ask your attorney for guidance on this matter.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

The executor of an estate is a very important role, and Bundren Law Firm P.C. understands the importance of this job. As such, we are dedicated to providing legal assistance to executors in order to ensure that they fulfill their duties properly and efficiently.

We understand that an executor’s responsibilities can be complex and time-consuming, which is why our attorneys provide comprehensive legal advice and services to ensure that all aspects of the job are handled properly.

To learn more or request a consultation with our attorney, contact us online now.