As the executor of an estate, you have a fiduciary duty to the best interests of the estate. Sometimes, even when you believe that you have upheld that duty, a beneficiary of the estate may question your decisions. They may accuse you of a breach of your fiduciary duty.
There are a few things to know about protecting yourself against these claims.
1. Document everything
As soon as you become the executor of an estate, prioritize documentation. Gather the most recent statements for every asset account, debt and investment to eliminate questions of the estate’s value at the time of appointment. Keep copies of every invoice, estimate, payment and statement received for the estate to support your actions and decisions.
2. Follow the deceased’s wishes
Every decision that you make should follow the wishes defined in the estate plan. Ask for a copy of the will and any other documents from the deceased that detail how they wanted things distributed. Any beneficiary contesting the handling of the estate cannot call you into question if you can show that you were following the wishes of the deceased.
3. Talk with the beneficiaries
Communication is important when you serve as an estate executor. Family members dealing with grief can lash out, especially when they feel ill-informed. Keep the lines of communication open and be willing to discuss the estate’s management with the beneficiaries. Transparency and communication often reduce the chances of a breach of duty claim.
Serving as the executor of an estate is a significant responsibility. Protect yourself, the estate and the beneficiaries with these tips.