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Mistakes you want to avoid in your role as executor

Your uncle died unexpectedly. Now you must take up your duty to administer his estate, but you feel unprepared.

To help you carry out your responsibility successfully, here are five common mistakes to avoid.

1. Not understanding the task at hand

There is more to serving as an executor than distributing assets. You begin by filing your uncle’s will with the probate court. You will make funeral arrangements, notify creditors and send copies of the death certificate to financial institutions, insurance companies, the Social Security Administration and other entities, as required. It becomes your job to protect estate assets, pay the final bills, prepare and submit the final tax returns, and distribute assets according to the will's instructions.

2. Not following court instructions

The court has requirements and instructions for you to follow. Make sure you do not fail to comply. For example, do not allow a beneficiary to take anything that belongs to the estate, even a teacup, without court approval.

3. Having little contact with beneficiaries

As to the beneficiaries, it is a good idea to keep in touch with them. Provide regular updates to let them know how the probate process is going. They probably do not know what tasks your job entails. Regular communication keeps them informed and less likely to become frustrated or argumentative.

4. Moving too quickly

Take your time. Estate administration usually takes from nine to 12 months. Rushing through it may open you to mistakes. It is also an emotional undertaking. Take it slow and give yourself time to grieve.

5. Failing to seek help

One of the reasons your uncle named you as executor may be your common sense: Uncle Ned felt you would know when to ask for help. You may need the assistance of an accountant for the tax work, and you will surely need the services of an attorney to ensure that you do not make legal missteps. Avoid making mistakes and you will serve your late uncle as a successful executor.

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