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How can estate executors minimize the risk of probate disputes?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Probate |

Probate is the legal process of settling a deceased individual’s estate and can be a source of tension among beneficiaries. Often, the person caught up in estate disputes or will contests is the estate executor, who is only trying to fulfill their duties.

Minimizing the possibility of an estate or probate dispute can make your role as executor go much more smoothly, and it is simpler than you may think. Here are two best practices for executors that may help prevent disagreements about the decedent’s estate.

Maintain open communication and detailed records

Transparency is vital. Keep beneficiaries informed throughout the probate process with regular updates on estate assets, liabilities and disbursement plans. Consider scheduling a meeting with beneficiaries to explain the process and answer their questions.

Maintain meticulous records of all financial transactions involving the estate and save receipts, invoices and proof of asset valuations. These records can help you show that you followed the decedent’s wishes and the law if a conflict arises.

Maintain fairness and neutrality

Distribute estate assets strictly according to the terms outlined in the will, and document all decisions to demonstrate impartiality. Estate executors must avoid any actions that might be perceived as favoring one beneficiary over another.

If the will is unclear, consider seeking a legal opinion. This can help you interpret the terms of the will and other documents or ask for the probate court to interpret its decisions if necessary to be sure they’re understood. Generally, complex estates, or those with the potential for conflict, may benefit from legal guidance, even with a clear-cut will.