After a loved one passes away, it is important to settle his or her affairs. This task falls to the person named as executor of the estate. In many cases, the decedent will have appointed this person in his or her will. If the position falls to you, you have your work cut out for you.
You may certainly feel honored that your loved one trusted you with such an important task. However, this monumental obligation can also cause a great deal of stress. You will not just be dealing with the professionals needed to close the estate. You will also have to handle surviving loved ones who may feel pushy about receiving certain assets.
As the executor, it will fall on your shoulders to distribute the remaining assets in accordance with your loved one's wishes. However, this step is one of the final tasks of the probate process. In fact, the probate process typically comes to an end before making distributions. Of course, probate can take months and sometimes even years to complete, so some individuals may get antsy and try to pressure you into distributing assets early.
Before you give in to such pressures, you may want to understand that early distributions could easily throw off many other parts of the probate process. For instance, you have the responsibility of handling any creditor claims and estate taxes. If you distribute assets before handling those liabilities, the estate may not have enough remaining assets to cover the claims.
This not only results in complications, but it could also result in you holding the personal liability of covering those costs from your own funds. In some cases, this liability could also fall to certain beneficiaries who accepted the assets.
Following the will
You will have a considerable amount of power and authority as the executor. Still, you must follow your loved one's will and other instructions. Some individuals may try to convince you to give them certain property even though your loved one bequeathed that property to someone else, but you do not have the right to make a decision that supersedes the instructions in a will. If someone wants to fight for certain assets, he or she may choose to challenge the will through formal legal action.
During this time, you may wish you could have an ally to help you fight the battles that arise during the probate proceedings. Fortunately, you do have the option of enlisting the help of a California attorney who can guide you through the process, help you understand your role and work with you in the event of lawsuits involving the estate.