Your last will and testament sets out how you would like your property distributed following your death. However, this document is not self-executing and someone must submit your will to the probate courts for review. Someone must also be in charge of settling your estate in line with your wishes and instructions contained in the will. That “someone” is legally referred to as the executor of your estate.
An executor has many important duties following a death, including taking inventory of an estate, resolving debts, identifying beneficiaries, distributing property, and even defending against legal attacks by beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors. These tasks can be complicated and the situation can become more challenging because most beneficiaries do not have any experience in administering an estate. This is because most people making a will choose a close family member to serve as their executor. While many estates are successfully administered without incident, the following are some mistakes that are commonly made by executors of estates:
- Failing to get formal permission from the court to act as the executor of the estate before they start with their duties.
- Not properly identifying and notifying all possible heirs to the estate, which can be more than the individuals included in the will. Too many executors only notify beneficiaries designated in the will, which can lead to legal action by potential heirs who were not notified.
- Failing to keep all estate finances separate from their own by opening a special account for the estate to pay bills and debts.
- Not filing or paying all necessary taxes on the estate.
- Making distributions (even partial distributions) before all debts and taxes have been paid on the estate.
- Failing to keep proper and complete records of every transaction regarding the estate, which can lead to challenges about transactions at a later date.
The above are only a few of many mistakes that can be made when executing an estate.
Call an Experienced New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney for Help
When you create your last will and testament, choosing the right executor is only one of many important decisions you will have to make. At the Law Office of John L. Schettino in New Jersey, our skilled estate planning attorney can walk you through every step of the estate planning process and can help you develop the most effective estate plan for you to protect your assets and cause minimal trouble for your family. Please call today for more information at 201-498-9768.