When you agree to serve as someone’s executor, you know that you’re going to have to give up a lot of your free time. It can be a thankless job, especially if the testator doesn’t have enough property to actually compensate you for your work.
Still, you may be happy to carry out the final wishes of someone you love out of respect for them. Whether you receive compensation for your role or not, you will want to protect yourself. Executors can face a number of risks associated with their duties, two of which can have particularly long-term consequences if you don’t address them ahead of time.
You may take on some financial liability
Did you know that predators ranging from credit card companies to someone who has a judgment against the deceased person could hold you personally accountable for unpaid debts?
If there aren’t enough assets in the estate to repay those debts, you aren’t on the hook for them. However, if you distribute property to beneficiaries from the estate without first paying off debts, the creditors could hold you personally accountable for that oversight.
Your relationship with family members and other beneficiaries may change
Not only is estate administration a thankless job, but it is one that can make you a target. People in your family may blame you for how much they inherit, even though all you do is follow instructions. You need to brace yourself for conflict, resentment and damage to the relationships you have with other people who benefit from the estate or whom the testator excluded from the estate.
Identifying the risks you take as an executor can help you protect yourself from liability and unnecessary probate litigation.