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Making mistakes put an estate at risk after a loved one's death

In estate administration, there are some mistakes that you should avoid making. While making small errors can usually result in some trouble but be fixable, larger errors can be concerning on a number of levels. You could end up with long, drawn-out days in court if you fail to wrap up your loved one's affairs correctly.

When you're named the executor of an estate, it is your legal responsibility to finalize the affairs of the decedent. You are responsible for paying income and estate taxes, and you'll need to distribute assets from the estate.

Executors often make mistakes when carrying out these responsibilities, but doing so can open the estate up to lawsuits, which is the last thing anyone wants to deal with when a loved one has passed.

What can you do to avoid litigation against an estate?

One thing to do first is to speak with your attorney and make sure you have the right timeline for events. For instance, do you know the order in which you need to distribute assets or pay down debts? If you make distributions to the beneficiaries, for example, before you pay the estate's taxes, you could end up being held liable for not having enough to pay the taxes off. Distributions made too early are called "at risk" distributions and can create the risk of a claim.

Not properly advertising the estate is another issue. You must advertise the decedent's death and the estate's existence. Doing this gives creditors a chance to make a claim against the estate.

If you're worried about making mistakes, prevent them by working with your estate attorney. With just a few helpful pieces of information, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.

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