Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, April 14, 2019

How to Avoid the 8 Biggest Executor Mistakes

FiduciarydutyAn appointed or named executor has a seemingly endless list of tasks to perform, but assembling an appropriate team of advisors can help avoid many pitfalls. Here is a tally of ways to avoid the largest of the pitfalls, compiled by numerous horror stories.

  • Do not hire your real estate attorney to probate the will.
    • Chances are that he most likely is not well-versed in probate law.
  • Do not ignore the beneficiaries.
    • They are the ones to whom you owe a fiduciary duty, so they will not go away until your tasks and duties are fulfilled.
  • Do not think you are all powerful.
    • You might have gotten the job by being the testator's favorite niece or nephew, but the actual business of the estate takes a certain level of humility.
  • Do not fail to act.
    • Estate need to be closed, and the sooner the better for everyone involved. And ignoring the responsibilities does not close it!
  • Do not fail to speak with your attorney because you are concerned about lawyers’ fees.
    • Properly handling an estate can get expensive, and some tasks that can be done by yourself should be to save on fees. But also rely on your attorney's advice.
  • Do not favor one beneficiary over the others.
    • If the testator did not favor one of the beneficiaries, you certainly cannot. This can get you removed as executor.
  • Do not resort to self-dealing.
    • Though some of the estate's more enticing assets may seem within reach with just a little tweaking, any sort of personal gain would most likely be a breach of your fiduciary duty.
  • Do not forget you have personal liability. 
    • "With great power comes great responsibility." Thus, if you make a irreparable mistake, you may be held responsible for the consequences.

See Christine Fletcher, How to Avoid the 8 Biggest Executor Mistakes, Forbes, April 11, 2019.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Malpractice, Wills | Permalink


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