You are in a difficult situation. You want to honor your friend’s or relative’s wishes. You have been named executor and want to serve as the executor of his estate and help settle his debts and distribute his assets according to the terms of his will, trusts, and other applicable estate documents. You understand your duty and you are willing to accept it, but you don’t want to inadvertently get yourself into any legal trouble.
Know When to Call a Lawyer for Help
The best way to stay out of legal trouble as you are administering an estate is to know when to ask for professional help. Some situations that commonly lead to potential legal problems are:
- When there are children who are not named in the will. The first thing you are going to have to do in this situation is to figure out if the child, or children, were purposefully omitted from the will or if the child was pretermitted from the will. A child is pretermitted if he or she was born after the will was executed and the will did not have a clause that provided for children who might be born in the future. Alternatively, a child may be purposefully omitted by a parent. Both children who are purposefully omitted and those who are pretermitted may claim that they have rights to part of their parent’s estate—but their rights are significantly different. Since you are named executor you now must deal with the family dispute. You need an attorney on your side.
- When there is a dispute over asset valuation. This can help you avoid tax problems and issues with beneficiaries. A proper valuation of assets is going to be necessary in order to determine whether a federal estate tax return should be filed and how much federal and state taxes are due, if any. A proper valuation of assets can also prevent beneficiaries from claiming that the assets were not distributed fairly and according to the terms of the will.
- When there are disputes among the beneficiaries. If any of the beneficiaries disagree with what you are doing then they may be more likely to file a legal claim against you for breach of fiduciary duty. In these situations it is especially important to make sure that you have done everything correctly.
Of course, this list is not all inclusive. If you find yourself with any question about how to properly administer an estate, then it is important to get legal help before the problem becomes bigger and much harder to resolve.
Prevent Problems Before They Occur
If you are the executor of an estate then it is important to learn all that you can about how to administer an estate fairly and according to California law. Please browse our free articles and start a live chat with us today to learn more about what you can do, how you can protect yourself, and how you can fulfill your obligations as executor according to the wishes of your friend or relative who trusted you with this responsibility.