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Carrying Out Final Wishes

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When acting as executor of a decedent's estate, you have a duty to be an earnest steward of their assets until all are disbursed to the beneficiaries and heirs. Sometimes, through no fault of the diligent executor, assets depreciate, such as if the housing or financial markets nosedive.

In those type of situations, there may be little that you can do to prevent the value from diminishing, but as long as you always act in good faith, you should be protected from liability. However, if you panic at the financial crush and begin selling off assets willy-nilly, you could experience some blowback from the heirs.

It's a good idea with larger estates to seek legal guidance from an estate lawyer, a professional appraiser and a tax professional when there are substantial assets to valuate and manage. You don't want to make mistakes that can leave you personally liable for anything.

Eager beneficiaries who are ready to get their hands on some cash or other assets can get pushy and urge you to quickly distribute the assets before the probate process has run its course. An estate lawyer can hold them off at the pass and thwart any attempts at early disbursements.

An appraiser can make sure you correctly value collections and other expensive legacies like art and antiques. Tax professionals can prepare the decedent's final tax return and manage issues regarding investments, pensions or the family business.

It is both a duty and an honor to serve as an executor for an estate, so you want to make sure that you carry out your tasks without making errors or enemies among the heirs.

Source:, "7 tips for the executor of an estate," Judy Martel, accessed Sep. 16, 2016

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