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How estate executors can avoid costly mistakes

While it is a great honor to serve as the executor under a testator's will, the role carries many duties and responsibilities that must be strictly followed. Florida residents might benefit by learning about how to avoid some costly mistakes while serving as an executor.

One of the executor's responsibilities is to make sure the decedent's bills are paid in full. However, paying some of the bills too swiftly could result in costly mistakes. For example, if the executor immediately pays credit card balances and other small bills, he or she could be held personally liable because of a breach of fiduciary duty if there is insufficient funds to pay off an unexpected, large federal income tax bill.

Another common mistake executors often make is mishandling real estate. Oftentimes, problems often arise because of disputes among family members about the property's selling price or other details. There is also the concern for break-ins, vandalism, and fire or water damage while the home sits vacant. Therefore, executors might consider the importance of maintaining homeowner's insurance on the property.

An executor can be held liable if any tangible or intangible assets are lost prior to distribution. In some cases, the executor may not be aware of a family member who might be taking some of the valuable assets contrary to the decedent's wishes. One of the first things an executor can do to avoid this scenario is to take full inventory of all the assets, get them appraised and then securely store them away.

An executor under a will is not expected to be an expert in all matters. In many cases obtaining the advice of an attorney who has experience with estate planning and administration will be advisable.

Source: Market Watch, "The biggest mistakes executors make", Veronica Dagher, Feb. 5, 2016

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