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Common mistakes for executors to avoid

As this blog has discussed before, executors and personal representatives in New Jersey have a lot of obligations they are expected to fulfill in a timely fashion. To summarize, their job is to collect the assets of a deceased loved one, pay off all valid debts and expenses and then distribute whatever is left to the heirs according to either the law or the terms of the will.

The process can be more complicated than one might think. In many cases, a person who is not accustomed to handling legal affairs will strongly want to consider consulting with an attorney who has experience with probate and estate administration.

One common mistake executors make is not retaining the right legal help or, even when they do, not consulting with counsel on important questions in order to save on costs.

Other common mistakes may include not communicating with beneficiaries or not making sure that the estate continues to move forward toward its legal conclusion. Likewise, it is very important for the executor to remember that she must not favor one beneficiary over the other and, especially, must resist every temptation to engage in self-dealing.

There are other mistakes even a well-intentioned and reasonably careful executor can make as well. For instance, many executors run in to trouble by making poor investment decisions or by not handling a real estate transaction correctly. Even if innocent, such missteps can cost the estate thousands of dollars. Likewise, it can be remarkably hard to keep track of all the estate's property, particularly furnishings, family heirlooms and the like.

Being an executor is rife with pitfalls, and those in this role should remember that, ultimately, they can be held personally responsible for financial losses.

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