As someone’s executor or personal representative, it is your job to manage the probate process and settle their unresolved business. You will need to file taxes, pay debts and distribute assets to family members.
You do all of that while bound by a fiduciary duty to the estate. A fiduciary duty is the highest level of duty that a person can have to someone else. It involves an obligation to put the other party’s best interests above your own wishes or needs. What does that mean for you as an executor?
Your fiduciary duty means that the beneficiaries come first
Your main job as executor is to handle all of the deceased’s outstanding personal matters. You will need to pay their debts, notify their creditors and secure their assets. You may also have to make decisions regarding the maintenance or sale of their property.
Whenever you must make a decision, the most important consideration should be the beneficiaries of the estate. Your goal should be to maximize or protect their inheritance instead of profiting off your position as executor. You also need to do your best to comply with the terms set in the estate plan rather than imposing your own preferences on the estate or its assets.
If someone can claim that you put your own interests ahead of the estate’s, that may give them grounds to challenge your position. Getting organized in your approach to estate administration and probate can decrease the likelihood of anyone challenging the steps you take as executor.