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Common reasons why executors of wills end up with legal problems

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2019 | Probate

Maryland executors have a single obligation to responsibly manage a decedent’s estate. It’s the personal representative’s responsibility to pay off any creditors, to preserve the value of the estate’s assets, to file the decedent’s final tax return and to distribute any remaining property to the rightful heirs. While many executors successfully carry out their role, there are plenty of others that end up in legal or financial hot water for not doing so.

Inexperienced executors often make the mistake of not recording a testator’s will with the probate court.

Personal representatives should comb through any paperwork that a decedent has after they die to see if they can find a will. It’s their responsibility to contact that person’s attorney to see if they made one. The personal representative should also reach out to the decedent’s bank to see if they had a safe deposit box where one might have been kept.

If neither one of these options pans out, then it’s the responsibility of the executor to let the court know. Intestate succession rules will likely be enforced in instances where a decedent didn’t draft a will.

Another reason why executors end up in legal or financial hot water is that they fail to identify a decedent’s valuable assets and safely keep them. You can be held personally liable for any of the estate’s unpaid taxes or bills if property unnecessarily depreciates, especially if you were negligent in securing them.

The final, most common reason why executors of estates end up with problems on their hands is that they mismanage their finances. Most first-time personal representatives aren’t fully aware of how administering an estate is much like running a business. The estate must have all its assets and expenses placed in and paid from a separate account.

Many executors drop the ball on collecting debts owed to the decedent, co-mingle funds and think that they can decide how much to get paid for their services when the state decides that for them. These are some other reasons why executors find themselves with legal problems.

It can be difficult administering an estate for a Frederick decedent, especially if you’ve never assumed this role before. A probate attorney can guide you in carrying out your responsibilities so that you don’t expose yourself to financial or legal liability for your actions.