Six Common Mistakes Executors Of Estates Make
Without hiring probate lawyers, many executors of family estates make mistakes that can cost the heirs a great deal of time and cut into their inheritances. Learn which common mistakes you can avoid.
Being appointed as the executor of an estate is a serious
responsibility. Most executors have the desire to handle every step of
the probate process appropriately, but many of them don't have the
experience or knowledge they need to do this, which is why it's almost
always a good idea to hire probate lawyers if you are the executor of
someone's will. If you are determined to handle the process yourself, be
sure you aren't making these common mistakes:
1. Not Filing The Right Legal Notices
When handling an estate, you have to file the appropriate paperwork during every step of the process. You'll have to obtain a death certificate and file it with the court, then draw up legal notices that need to be sent to all beneficiaries and all creditors. You'll also need to post a notice in at least one newspaper allowing potential heirs and creditors to step forward. Finally, you'll need to file a proof of publication. All of these documents have to follow specific formats, which probate lawyers will be familiar with. If you want to file these yourself, be sure they are worded correctly and that everyone is properly contacted.
2. Confusing Property That Is Covered By The Will With Property That Isn't
Not all property is covered by even the most detailed will. If the person who has passed away had life insurance policies that are payable to specific beneficiaries, these are considered separate from the estate. Other assets included in this category may include jointly owned property and certain types of retirement accounts. Because the laws surrounding these assets can be complex, it's best to consult with probate lawyers for any clarification needed.
3. Improperly Handling Tax Issues
This is one of the most confusing aspects of being the executor because tax laws, particularly those that affect estates, can be difficult and convoluted. This is an area where consulting with probate lawyers who are well versed in tax law can be a tremendous help so that you don't unfairly burden the heirs with incorrect or excessive tax liabilities.
4. Improperly Interpreting The Will
Reading through the last wishes of someone who has passed away should be relatively straightforward, but many people make their wills unnecessarily complex, leaving various stipulations open to interpretation. Sadly, this can lead to family feuds and long, drawn-out litigation that drains the estate of funds. By hiring probate lawyers, you can often avoid these complications.
5. Making Distributions Too Early
While the heirs will obviously want the estate to be closed and their proceeds distributed as soon as possible, it's a mistake to do this too soon. If the executor closes out the account before all of the obligations and debts are paid off, he or she could then be held liable for outstanding debts that are filed, leaving them in the unenviable position of trying to get money or property back from the heirs. Estate lawyers can help you determine when it's time for distribution.
6. Not Consulting With Probate Lawyers
most executors try to handle the job of executor conscientiously,
common sense and honesty aren't always enough to ensure a will is
handled appropriately. By hiring probate lawyers who are familiar with
the laws in your state, you can ensure that every step of the process is
handled appropriately and that the heirs each inherit what they are
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peck Bloom is a law firm specializing in estate planning and handling a variety of elder law issues. Their probate lawyers in Chicago can guide clients through even the most complex estates with confidence. For helpful articles on Chicago estate laws, visit their website.