Did you know that there’s no limit to the financial liability that an Executor of a will could face if they fail to carry out their duties correctly?
With this in mind, it’s vital to take care and be mindful of some of the areas in which people get it wrong. Here, we look at some of the most common mistakes people make when acting as executors of a will.
Using an invalid will
There are many reasons why a will may not be valid – it may not be the most recent version, it may be incomplete or not properly signed, or it may not have been properly witnessed.
In some cases, part of a will may be valid whilst other parts may not.
Without knowing what to look for, it can be easy to use an invalid will, which would then go on to invalidate any of the actions you then go on to take as part of the estate administration process.
Misunderstanding or misinterpreting the will
By its nature, a will is a legal document and usually contains technical legal jargon that is included to comply with statutory and common law. It is therefore not uncommon for a will to be difficult to read or understand.
A poorly drafted Will, or one that is particularly complex, can be easily misinterpreted by those not used to dealing in this field of law.
Incomplete or mistakes in paperwork
The amount and complexity of paperwork involved in administering an estate can easily be underestimated. Knowing which forms to fill in and when is one thing, but doing so in a manner that will satisfy the parties concerned is another.
Missing assets or liabilities
The Executor has responsibility for the entire estate, which firstly involves tracking down all of the assets and paying off any liabilities.
Calculating the value of the assets requires finding and accessing them. Accurate, up-to-date valuations for all physical assets, such as property, must be obtained. Tracking down every liability and settling all outstanding debts can be even more problematic. Any creditors that are missed are able to make a direct claim against the executor in the event that the estate has already been administered to the beneficiaries.
Failure to complete all the necessary processes
As an executor, you are not only responsible for following all of the instructions the will entails, but you are also responsible for anything you omit to do – even if this is entirely accidental. If you’ve never acted as an executor before, how can you know you’ve completed all of the necessary tasks?
If you are the executor of an estate, it is imperative that you understand your duties before you commence the estate administration. Many people do not always realise the amount of work executing an estate involves, nor the personal risk that is taken on. To ensure getting it right, it is possible to obtain some guidance from a solicitor, either initially or along the way.
Another alternative is to instruct a solicitor to deal with the entire process on your behalf; removing the stress and potential risk from the process.
Jill Waddington is a solicitor specialising in private client law at O’Donnell Solicitors. Please contact Jill Waddington on 01457 761320 to arrange a convenient appointment to discuss any aspect of probate or estate administration.