The probate process is relatively lengthy and complex. Many people find estate administration to be a frustrating process even if they willingly agreed to assume that responsibility years before. They have to attend court hearings, gather documents, communicate with multiple parties and take responsibility for estate resources.
Small mistakes can potentially lead to personal liability for a person who is handling the probate process on behalf of another’s estate. The exact mistakes someone might make largely depend on the resources of the estate and other factors, like the wishes of the decedent. The three mistakes below are among the most common and the riskiest for someone who is managing the probate process.
Failing to act in a timely manner
From securing estate resources to filing initial paperwork with the probate courts, there are many steps someone will need to take in the days immediately after someone dies. Particularly if the personal representative of the estate is a busy person, they may put off dealing with certain aspects of estate administration for a few weeks or a few months. That mistake could lead to someone’s removal from their role or even claims from beneficiaries that they deserve compensation because of how someone’s inaction diminished the value of the estate.
Distributing resources too quickly
Those named as beneficiaries of an estate are often eager to receive their inheritances as quickly as possible. However, it is often necessary to wait until the end of the probate process to distribute the largest and most valuable assets to beneficiaries. Otherwise, there may not be enough resources to pay for someone’s taxes and personal debts after their death. The personal representative of an estate can sometimes be financially liable for debts and taxes owed by the estate if they improperly distribute resources.
Overlooking the need to keep records
Parties ranging from beneficiaries and family members to tax authorities and creditors may try to claim that someone mismanaged or even embezzled estate resources. The personal representative needs to maintain very clear records of exactly what they do with different resources.
From receipts showing that they have paid utility bills and credit card balances to paperwork signed by individual beneficiaries acknowledging that they have received certain property, the documentation someone maintains during estate administration can be their first line of defense when others seek to remove them from their role or demand financial compensation based on what they perceive as misconduct or negligence on the part of the representative.
The easiest way for people to avoid these and other common mistakes is to seek support from a legal professional throughout the probate process. Connecting with the right support can make all the difference for those managing the administration of someone’s estate.