Tips for avoiding fiduciary duty claims as an executor

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2023 | Estate Planning, Litigation, Probate

Executors perform any number of essential duties in handling an estate. Unfortunately, beneficiaries may disagree with how you do it or even decisions made by the decedent. While you did your utmost to perform all your fiduciary duties during the probate process, they may claim that you breached them.

4 tips for defending yourself

Even with the best intentions, it is wise for executors to take these steps as they perform their duties:

  1. Document everything: Managing documents is an integral part of the job, but keeping records in good working order is essential. Have your answers backed up with paperwork (invoices, payments, financial statements, bank account information, etc.).
  2. Follow the decedent’s instructions: The executor’s job is to follow the instructions left by the deceased as long as they are legal. A potential beneficiary cannot dispute a will or other instructions if the executor follows them.
  3. Communicate with beneficiaries: Another big part of the job is dealing with people who are grieving as you do the same. Keeping people updated and displaying a willingness to discuss matters with beneficiaries avoids unpleasant surprises, which lead to claims or threats of claims.
  4. Remain neutral: It is best to remain as unbiased as possible, even listening to beneficiaries unhappy with how the estate was divided. Whether they are right or wrong is beside the point — it is best to appear unbiased.

Legal guidance is also helpful

Attorneys can be a real asset to those handling estates likely to involve disputes. Bringing in someone who understands the process here in Kentucky can help minimize oversights and mistakes and also can help legally protect the executors who become embroiled in disputes over the handling of their fiduciary duties.