Troubleshooting Legal Problems

Do not let your role as executor become overwhelming

When your favorite uncle named you as executor in his will, you were happy to oblige and thought no more about it. 

When he died unexpectedly, you had to assume the role of executor sooner than anticipated. How can you keep the responsibilities from becoming overwhelming? 

Understanding the responsibilities

As the executor or personal representative of your uncle’s estate, you are legally responsible for protecting the assets, paying the debts and distributing the remainder to his beneficiaries. If the estate goes through probate, the court will confirm your appointment with certified documents called letters testamentary. These documents give you the legal authority to administer the estate. You can begin to pull together the will, any trust documents, bank accounts, investment accounts and any other paperwork related to insurance, business matters and miscellaneous information; for example, documents concerning collectibles or real property your uncle owned. 

Dealing with beneficiaries

Executors sometimes make the mistake of trying to rush through their responsibilities when beneficiaries exert pressure. The probate process takes time and heirs impatient to get to the distribution stage can become demanding. Interacting with them will require tact, but your relationship with beneficiaries will be easier if you keep them in the loop as you pass through the different stages of your work as executor. 

Seeking help

You will have many questions as you assume your new responsibilities. To keep from becoming overwhelmed, you should not hesitate to request help from professionals such as an accountant, an investment advisor, and, of course, an attorney. You will want to do the best job possible in the administration of your uncle’s estate and avoid making any legal or financial missteps.