Many proactive individuals handle their estate planning early on in adulthood. One aspect of drafting their will is that the testator must select a personal representative or executor, to handle their estate, including the probate process.
A personal representative may give very little thought to accepting their appointment when they’re tapped for the role so early in a testator’s life. They may think that the time will never come where they’ll need to fulfill their duties and give little thought to learning them. This assessment of the situation often leads to personal representatives not being fully equipped for their roles, thus putting them at risk of making some common rookie mistakes.
Losing track of property
It’s a personal representative’s responsibility to inventory all of a testator’s assets and protect them once a testator passes away. An executor who doesn’t take care of this immediately following a testator’s death may lose track of these assets, making them unavailable for distribution to the rightful heirs. A testator may be financially liable for squandering such assets.
Not prioritizing settlements with creditors
Another common mistake personal representatives make is not creating a comprehensive list of a testator’s creditors or prioritizing who they pay. Taxes and funeral expenses are often some of the most costly debts and have to be prioritized.
Failing to liquidate assets
The need might arise for a personal representative to sell off an asset, such as real estate, to pay a testator’s outstanding debts or to ensure that heirs receive what they’re due. Personal representatives may face removal proceedings and other consequences for failing to follow a testator’s wishes.
Making improper investments
One responsibility executors have is to grow the value of estate assets, a duty that may require them to make savvy investments. Any personal representative that decides to take advantage of the privilege of controlling someone else’s funds to make risky financial choices may also expose themselves to legal liability.
Minimizing legal liability risks during the probate process
While it’s a tremendous honor for someone to trust you enough to select you as their personal representative, this role comes with an enormous amount of responsibility. A probate administration attorney can guide you through your role so that you keep your liability risk low.