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What if I make a mistake as executor of an estate?

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2017 | Probate & Estate Administration |

Taking on the role of estate executor for a friend or family member may seem daunting. The many legal and personal factors involved can seem bewildering, and it is understandable that you would have questions and concerns about doing the right thing and meeting deadlines.

In addition to the legal issues, you are likely to feel pressure from heirs who want to move on. Perhaps they are anxious to sell property that belongs to the estate or take possession of certain assets. The estate executor is in the middle of this tug-of-war, and you may have to step carefully to fulfill your duty well.

Should I start by paying the bills?

Using money from the estate to pay any of the deceased’s debts is one of your duties, and you are likely to find bills and other obligations when you gather the mail for your departed loved one. However, rushing to pay off those credit card bills may be your first mistake. What you may not know is whether your loved one had any debts that take priority over other creditors, such as tax debt.

If you use up the estate’s assets paying bills only to find a higher priority debt looming, the estate may not be able to cover that debt, and you may be financially responsible. Before paying any of the deceased’s bills, you may wish to seek legal advice about prioritizing creditors in Texas.

Am I required to increase the value of the assets during probate?

You may believe the heirs of the estate will appreciate if you do a little investing with the deceased’s money to increase the amounts of their inheritances. However, financial advisors do not recommend this. Playing the stock market or otherwise placing the assets at risk could end very badly if the value of the investment should decline. In fact, it is possible the heirs could sue you for breach of fiduciary duties under such circumstances.

Your job as an executor is to conserve the estate. This may even mean protecting assets from the heirs until the estate is settled. It is not uncommon for heirs to help themselves to certain assets they feel they deserve. Taking an inventory of the assets as soon as possible and securing them until probate is complete is the best way to avoid losing track of valuables.

While the duties and responsibilities of being an estate executor may seem overwhelming, fulfilling this role for a loved one is an honor. As difficult as it may seem, no one is required to take the job without seeking advice and guidance from those with experience in the administration of estates.