Being nominated as the personal representative or “executor” of an estate can seem daunting. Depending on the assets in the estate and family dynamics, the position can get complicated. Also, a personal representative can be personally liable if they make a mistake. Here are a few tips for personal representatives:
- Once you have authority from the court to administer the estate, obtain a tax ID number for the estate and open up a bank account. Keep your funds and the funds of the estate separate. Any costs your incur, use the estate account to pay for it. DO NOT commingle estate funds with any other funds.
- Make and accounting. As a personal representative you have a duty to keep accurate financial records. If you feel inadequate, seek the help of an accountant or probate attorney.
- Consider mediation. If you have interested parties that are at odds, a mediator can help. A mediator is a neutral third party that can help settle disputes with an estate. Estate assets may be preserved by settling conflicts with a mediator rather than through full blown litigation or even a trial.
- Keep records of everything. Any communication you have with interested parties, make a note and keep track. You have a duty to the beneficiaries to efficiently and timely administer the estate. Thus, it can be helpful to have notes so you can account for your actions. Never be afraid to seek legal advice from an attorney. Personal representatives could be held liable for their mistakes, so it’s important to have a paper trial for anything you do.