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There Are Steps an Executor Can Take to Avoid Estate Litigation

Nov. 9, 2017

There are many responsibilities that are required of an executor of an estate. If there are any short cuts or mistakes made in the process, then one could possibly provide an opportunity for an individual or a creditor to pursue estate litigation attempts. New York residents who are seeking to finalize their estate plans may benefit from carefully reviewing the abilities of the individual or company that he or she is considering asking to handle their final affairs.

One of the first errors that an executor may commit is allowing the disbursements of assets prematurely. Distributing assets before one is assured that all liabilities are met is referred to as “at-risk” distributions and can wind up costing the executor personally. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the executor to request the portability election by filing for the exemption within nine months of the estate owner’s demise. This exemption allows the surviving spouse to reduce or avoid estate taxes and should be requested even in the event that no taxes are due.

Another duty of an executor is to properly advertise in the appropriate forums that the estate is now open for claims. Creditors who are denied the opportunity to file claims may then have the right to pursue actions against the estate. New York has its own laws regarding this requirement. Executors are also required to liquidate or acquire securities in the event that there is the threat of a market instability that could cause the estate to suffer financial losses through missed opportunities.

Lastly, once all of the affairs of the estate are concluded, it is the responsibility of the executor to formally close the estate, either by filing a settlement agreement that demonstrates that all parties are satisfied with the appropriate court or by requesting that the court approves all of the disbursements. The chosen executor will be accountable for the above tasks, and any mistakes could open the door to estate litigation by disgruntled individuals. New York residents who are unsure of how to choose an executor, or have any questions about ensuring their wishes are carried out, may consult an experienced attorney who can provide further information.

Source: Forbes, “Five Mistakes To Avoid In Estate Administration“, Russ Alan Prince, Nov. 6, 2017