Three executor mistakes that can lead to estate litigation

This article looks at three common mistakes executors make that often lead to litigation.

Acting as the executor of an estate is not an easy job, yet when people choose their executor it is largely an emotional rather than a practical decision. Many people will simply choose a friend or family member who is close to them without any consideration about whether or not that person has the time or skills to take on the task. As CNBC reports, many people named as executors fail to appreciate just how complex the job is before they agree to take it on. As a result, many executors make mistakes, which in some cases can lead to estate litigation and disputes with heirs. Below is a look at the most common errors executors make that can lead to litigation.

Failing to secure assets

As MarketWatch reports, many executors have difficulty understanding that there is a difference between the deceased person and the deceased person's estate. When a person dies, for example, her physical property no longer belongs to her, but rather to her estate. The executor is responsible for securing whatever assets belong to the estate as soon as possible, which means ensuring nobody can access the deceased's house or private property. While family members may claim that a certain asset was promised to them, it is up to the executor to ensure that the assets are distributed in accordance with the will and the law.

Not paying creditors

Another problem with not securing assets or with distributing them too soon is that it could result in there not being enough assets to pay creditors. Whatever debts the deceased person had at the time of their death will still need to be paid from the estate itself and those debts typically take precedence over heirs receiving their share of the estate. So if part of the estate is distributed too soon and creditors aren't paid then legal action may be taken against the executor.

Paying the wrong debts first

That being said, not all debts are created equal and it is important for executors to know what all the claims on the estate are and which ones take precedence. A debt to the IRS, for example, will almost always take precedence over an unpaid cellphone bill. Many executors simply do not have the necessary expertise to understand which debts should be paid first.

Estate and trust litigation

Negligence or fraud by an executor can lead to heirs being cheated out of their fair share of an estate. Anybody who is concerned with how an executor is managing an estate should contact an estate and trust litigation attorney for assistance. An experienced attorney can help assess a client's case and advise them as to the best course of action for protecting their rights and interests.