One of the most important tasks in preparing an estate plan is naming a responsible estate executor to carry out the final wishes set forth in the will. It is an honor to be asked to perform these duties for a loved one. After all, this means that they trust you to follow their instructions and distribute their assets as they see fit. However, the job can also have some unexpected drawbacks. Without question, you should consider these carefully before accepting the responsibility.
Being an estate executor can be a big job. Although most people understand that to some extent, they might not truly grasp how big of a time commitment it actually is. Settling an estate involves organizing the estate documents, filing the will with the court, notifying all appropriate parties, taking inventory and determining the value of any assets, paying any debts or taxes owed by the estate and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.
This can take many months to complete. In fact, in most instances an estate executor should expect to devote a year or more, depending on the size of the estate. Some of the tasks can be passed off to professionals to handle. And you can be compensated out of the estate’s assets for the time you do spend on the job. But you should consider your other commitments before deciding if you can take on these added responsibilities.
Disputes are common
The death of a loved one can bring out the worst in people. And unfortunately, the estate executor often is the one who has to deal with it. For instance, a beneficiary may feel that they are entitled to more than what was specified in the will. But the executor’s job is to carry out the wishes of the deceased. They may also need to interpret the meaning of a direction in the will that others may disagree with. Additionally, there are sometimes multiple executors named in the will. This can lead to disputes when the parties disagree with one another and can sometimes even require a court intervention.
An Estate executor can get sued
You might think that a person who voluntarily assumes the role of an estate executor would not be subject to legal action. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are certain tasks that an estate executor is expected to complete. If a beneficiary feels the executor is not doing their job well, they can file a lawsuit against them for breach of fiduciary duty. The reasons for the lawsuit might include such violations as not properly managing the estate’s assets, failing to pay the appropriate taxes, failing to provide proper financial information to the beneficiaries, or even showing favoritism to one beneficiary over another.
Even small estates can be complex
Those who take on the role of an estate executor thinking a simple estate will be an easy job can also be in for a surprise. This is because complications can arise with even the smallest of estates. Of course, that is not always the case. And those who are lucky can get through the entire process without any major issues. But the more likely scenario is that somewhere along the way you will need some assistance.
Settling an estate can have many moving parts. In order to ensure that all laws are followed and the estate is settled properly, many estate executors will enlist the assistance of an experienced estate attorney like those at Churchill, Quinn, Hamilton & Van Donselaar, Ltd. Our firm has represented our community for over 100 years. Estate law is one of our specialties. This means that we can help you prepare your own estate for your heirs, plus assist with preparing important documents such as wills, living wills, trusts, powers of attorney and more. And if you are serving as an estate executor, we can help you navigate the complex process and relieve some stress of the responsibility. Contact our Grayslake office at 847-223-1500 to learn more.