Family members want to respect their loved one’s intentions and ensure the estate is administered correctly. However, it is easy to make mistakes under the pressure of estate administration.
Mistakes made during the estate administration procedure could result in legal action against the executor or administrator of the estate. The estate representative and beneficiaries gain nothing by making time and financial commitments in a court case. How can an executor prevent conflicts with beneficiaries and creditors?
Here are five basic practices from an experienced Pennsylvania probate lawyer to help you avoid common mistakes.
Secure the original will immediately.
If the deceased had an attorney, high chances are that the attorney has the original will. As a will executor, you can obtain the will, but you are not obligated to use the same attorney for estate administration if you don’t want to. A legal petition is required to request admission of the copy if the original is lost. The petition asks the court to grant probate over a duplicate of the will in the same manner as the original.
However, admission of a copy is not assured, particularly if the deceased person’s heirs contest its admission. If the original is missing in Pennsylvania, there is a rebuttable assumption that the deceased destroyed and revoked the will. In such circumstances, engaging an experienced PA probate lawyer is advisable to navigate the process without making any mistakes.
Publish the estate
Estate publication entails placing two ads in a legal and a general circulation newspaper with a wide readership. You may wonder why a newspaper ad, with all its formality, is still required in 2023. Despite the law’s dated nature, the executor is protected when an estate is made public.
Obtained a signed settlement agreement with all the beneficiaries
As an executor, obtaining a signed settlement agreement with all the beneficiaries is advisable. You (the executor), the beneficiaries, and this agreement, which governs how the estate was managed, are all parties to a binding contract. The agreement provides the executor with indemnification rights if a creditor sues for payment after distribution and safeguards the executor from potential future claims by the beneficiaries.
Ensure beneficiaries sign advancement receipts.
Ensure that a receipt is signed by each person receiving property as an advancement. It makes sense for beneficiaries to seek to claim the decedent’s possessions, especially sentimental objects. However, how personal property is distributed impacts inheritance taxes and other estate beneficiaries’ rights. Holding an estate representative accountable for losing track of who acquired particular property items is possible.
Consider taking a commission.
Executors ought to, at the very least, take a commission. Being an executor might take a lot of time, and accepting remuneration instead of taking risky shortcuts would be preferable if the executor views the job as an unpleasant duty.
Litigation involving wills, trusts, and probate can be costly emotionally and financially. Such legal disputes can be time-consuming, postpone inheritances, and cost money. If you or a family member becomes involved in a probate or trust issue, you will benefit from consulting with a lawyer specializing in these cases.