The role of executor is a complex and challenging job, with lots of potential pitfalls. While the most important decision, the one to hire a professional to help, has already been made, there is still plenty of room for a client to make mistakes.
Not Reviewing the Will Regularly
Fundamentally the executor’s role is to “execute” the instructions in the will. Any decision or distribution should be based on the contents of the will. Especially as the process wears on, it can be easy for an executor to assume he or she understands the contents of the will and overlook a small but important detail. While you will help guide them, it is important for the client to understand that the responsibility of reviewing the contents of the will as the client makes decisions will fall on the client.
One of the most important functions of an executor is the notification process. It is up to the executor to make sure that beneficiaries, creditors, service providers and government agencies are notified of the death in a timely manner. Helping your client establish a list of who to contact and when can help them stay on track.
Not Understanding What Does and Doesn’t Go Through Probate
An easy mistake to make is not understanding what is supposed to go through the probate process. A small decision, like allowing a beneficiary to take a seemingly insignificant household item can lead to a major conflict down the road. Giving your client a list of things that need to go through the probate process and reminding them of the need to be thoughtful about all the deceased’s personal effects can help prevent that kind of mistake.
Not Asking for Help
Despite your best efforts, executors may not always make the right decisions. Even if the client isn’t rushing, he or she may still make a mistake by failing to ask for help. The client may feel bad about asking or not know whether it’s a question you can handle. Providing a client, a set of frequently asked questions as well as list of resources to get their question answered can help make sure they have plenty of resources to find answers.
Rushing through the process
Executors can be pulled in a lot of different directions. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or rush through the process. Helping your client to understand that the process will take time and encouraging them to slow down, review available resources and ask for help can ultimately help them avoid costly errors.