Serving as the personal representative of an estate is a major responsibility. And despite the fact that it often involves complex legal and financial elements, the people who often serve as a personal representative are not people with legal or financial backgrounds. Instead, they are often loved ones who were close to the decedent and understood his or her wishes.
If you are named as a personal representative and are in latter group, try not to get overwhelmed. You can get through this process by avoiding some common pitfalls during probate.
Common pitfall #1: Being disorganized
As a personal representative, you will be tasked with notifying heirs and creditors, filing legal paperwork, collecting property and distributing assets to beneficiaries. With so much responsibility and so many tasks to complete, you would be wise to stay organized. If you lose track of deadlines, receipts or other critical information, you could wind up creating more problems for yourself.
Common pitfall #2: Shirking your financial obligations
Much of your role will be handling finances. For instance, as noted in this Fox Business article, you will have to pay bills, pay creditors and pay taxes. You may also collect money as compensation for your role, so it can be important that you pay yourself as well. If you mismanage these finances by paying more than you should or missing payments, you could face penalties and possible legal action. As such, you must take your role as a fiduciary seriously and keep detailed records of all payments.
Common pitfall #3: Failing to communicate
As the personal representative, much of the communication regarding an estate will come from you. If you do not communicate well or when necessary, parties can accuse you of withholding information or being deceitful. This can trigger petitions to remove you as a personal representative.
Understanding and avoiding these pitfalls can help you stay on top of your responsibilities and avoid negative allegations by beneficiaries.
One final misstep you should avoid is assuming you must figure everything out on your own during probate; you can secure legal guidance and support throughout this process by working with an attorney.