When your parents pass away, their estate will be probated. The probating of their will, and all associated duties are handled by their executor. This could be a person they chose and named in their will, or it could be a person appointed by the court.
Executors have many duties to perform. Some of these duties are somewhat procedural while others involve the oversight of assets and proper distribution of assets. Executors also have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate.
These duties could sometimes cause conflicts of interest or even lead to misconduct. The following are three red flags to look out for that may signal your parent’s executor is not doing their job.
Red flag 1: Important tasks are missed
You may assume your parent’s executor is moving along with the process until you receive notice that an important task, such as filing taxes, has been missed. This could indicate that other tasks are also being missed unbeknownst to you, or that the executor is skipping certain tasks altogether.
Red flag 2: The executor is a beneficiary or creditor
If your parents chose an executor who is also one of the beneficiaries of their estate, this can cause a conflict of interest. An executor who is also a beneficiary may not be able to remain impartial and act in the best interests of the estate, rather than serving their own interests first.
Alternatively, an executor who is also one of your parent’s creditors can have a similar conflict of interest. They might look out for their own financial interests first, rather than those of the estate.
Red flag 3: The will is not being honored
Executors are required to honor the terms of the will. This means following instructions laid out in the will to ensure the beneficiaries receive what the makers of the will intended them to.
Wills are not always easy to understand. They could contain a good amount of legal jargon or, if they were not drafted by an attorney, could be vague or unclear. An executor who does not understand how to follow the terms of the will could make mistakes.
Being the executor of an estate is not easy, and there are many ways an executor could fail in their duties, either intentionally or unintentionally. Knowing what red flags to look out for can help you protect your parents’ wishes and your own interests.