Top 10 Executor Mistakes

Updated: Oct 12


If you are named as executor, there are some things you should know before you dive into your duties. In terms of approach, you should consider the opportunity to be an executor as an honor rather than just another thing on your plate.


As for the details, these are some of the biggest mistakes we have seen being made by an executor.


Personal Mistakes
Mistake #1: Not being prepared
Mistake #2: Thinking that they are all powerful
Mistake #3: Not communicating
Mistake #4: Choosing friends over professional help

Legal Mistakes
Mistake #5: Waiting too long or failing to act
Mistake #6: Making distributions too early
Mistake #7: Trying to increase the value of the estate
Mistake #8: Failing to advertise to creditors
Mistake #9: Paying claims improperly
Mistake #10: Failing to close the estate

Personal Mistakes

Mistake #1: Not being prepared

Everyone’s level of knowledge on being an executor is a little different. Before you begin, do your homework and learn more about anything you do not know.


A great place to start is to understand about the court process, to fully understand the duty to always act in the best interest of the deceased person.

Mistake #2: Thinking that they are all powerful

You were named as executor because the deceased person believed in you and trusted that you could do things right. Do not go thinking that it gives you the power to change family dynamics that may have been clashing for years now.


Plus, if you do something you should not, you can be held personally liable.

Mistake #3: Not communicating

A common mistake made by executors is to keep information to themselves as they go through the process. Keeping open communication and transparency is key and can prevent drama from happening with beneficiaries and family members.


An extra piece of advice - avoid the "favorite beneficiary syndrome". As executor, you are held to a duty of impartiality by being fair and honest with all beneficiaries, the distribution process will be a lot smoother.

Mistake #4: Choosing friends over professional help

Getting professional help is the right thing to do when you are unsure of the best way to do something as an executor, like appraising a boat or filing taxes.


Legal Mistakes

Mistake #5: Waiting too long or failing to act

Many a time an executor does nothing but having an initial meeting with the clerk of court. The job of an executor is to take care of things for the decedent’s estate, and to do so within reasonable amounts of time.


If you wait too long to act, bills are going to pile up, beneficiaries will start complaining and things will just get harder to deal with the longer they are delayed.


Mistake #6: Making distributions too early

When someone dies, heirs expect to get their inheritance pretty quick. They can also become pushy.


As an executor, make sure you do not distribute assets out of the estate too early. If you do so, you can be held liable for any mistakes made. Before distributing any asset to beneficiaries, make sure all bills, taxes and any other outstanding debts are taken care of first.


Mistake #7: Trying to increase the value of the estate

An executor has no obligation to grow the estate. Don’t let your position tempt you into trying to make more money for the estate in the stock market.


Playing on the stock market is already risky, doing it with someone else’s money is even riskier. With a legal duty to do what is in the best interest of the estate, and to also protect yourself of any personal liability, we suggest not making investments you are unfamiliar with or that are riskier than those made by normal investors. Some assets of the estate may already be in the stock market, so monitor those to make sure they perform well based on the ongoing market environment and remain diversified.

Mistake #8: Failing to advertise to creditors

If someone dies owing a debt, that debt has to be paid out of the estate.


In order for debts to be paid, executors must advertise the estate and the death of the person. Creditors have the right within a certain time frame to be properly notified of an opportunity to make their claims.


Mistake #9: Paying claims improperly

Generally speaking, estate administration fees, funeral and hospital expenses should be paid first, followed by any known creditors or bills before making distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Make sure you do this correctly so that you will not be held personally liable for any mistake.


Mistake #10: Failing to close the estate

All taxes and debts must be paid, assets distributed to beneficiaries and any other loose ends must be tied up before the estate can officially be closed. Many people work their way through the process, yet forget to officially close the estate.


Writing your Will is the very first step, and it’s an important one. But that’s not enough. In the digital age, the next step is to store your Will online. Otherwise, what happens if nobody is able to find your Will in a timely manner? liteWill is the only registration platform that is available globally and that provides the option to store your Will online. ‘A Will that is not online is like a Will that does not exist’.


This portion of the website is for information only. The statements and opinions are the expression of their author, not of liteWill, and have not been evaluated for accuracy, completeness or changes in the law. Information contained in this article is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

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