Serving as executor of a close confidante or loved one’s affairs requires a certain level of responsibility, but even the most responsible people can make errors along the way. If one of your loved ones passed away and left you in charge of his or her financial, legal and other affairs, you may feel overwhelmed and question whether you are doing everything you should be.
The executor role is a complex one, and one thing that may help you navigate the process is recognizing where others in similar roles commonly make mistakes and land themselves in trouble. So, what types of errors are common during the estate administration process?
1. Not making the “portability” election
Though somewhat complicated, “portability” refers to certain benefits available to a surviving spouse, including an individual federal estate tax exemption and a first-to-die spouse exemption. As an executor, it is up to you to ask for portability, which you can do on an estate tax return you file within nine months of your loved one’s death.
2. Making premature distributions
Another action that lands some executors in hot water involves making estate distributions to beneficiaries prematurely. Before you can make estate distributions, you need to square up in terms of taxes and liabilities. If you fail to do so and give away everything left in the estate, it becomes your responsibility to cover the balance.
3. Neglecting to advertise the state
As executor, one of your duties involves adequately advertising the estate so that anyone owed money from it can come forward and make a claim. Illinois has specific laws dictating how and when you must advertise the estate, and failing to follow them can lead to considerable trouble.
Handling someone’s estate and affairs after her or his passing is a serious and time-consuming responsibility, but recognizing where other executors commonly make errors may help you avoid making similar ones yourself.