Being the administrator of a loved one’s estate is a difficult job. It is your responsibility to oversee the estate as it passes through probate, pay off any creditors, and make sure the heirs receive their inheritances according to the deceased’s final wishes.
Of course, being an estate administrator is not your full-time job. You might have never done it before. No matter how educated and intelligent you are, you are likely to make a mistake if you try to get through this task without legal help. While estate administrators can make many kinds of mistakes, here are six common mistakes that estate administrators in New Jersey can make:
- Ignore the heirs. As the estate administrator, you owe the heirs to the estate a legal duty to keep them informed. You do not have to write them every day, but make sure to provide them with regular updates on the estate’s progress.
- Fail to act. The task of estate administrator can seem overwhelming but ignoring it will not make the job go away. It will just make things more difficult for yourself. Remember, the deceased chose you to handle this for a reason.
- Favor one heir. You owe the same fiduciary duty to all the heirs. If you try to give “something extra” to one of the heirs, the probate judge could remove you.
- Self-deal. Access to your loved one’s property can make it tempting to make a deal for yourself, such as buying their vintage sports car at below market value. This is called self-dealing and is likely a breach of your fiduciary duty. If the heirs (probably your relatives) find out about it, it could cause a family rift.
- Forget you could have personal liability. If something goes wrong due to your actions (or inaction), you could be sued and made to pay the damages out of your own pocket.
- Hire the wrong lawyer. Estate administration is a specific part of New Jersey law. An attorney who mostly practices real estate or in another unrelated legal area probably will have a difficult time helping you.
The guidance of an experienced estate administration attorney can make help you avoid all of these pitfalls.