There are actually risks associated with being the executor or personal representative of someone’s estate. You probably considered those risks when deciding if you wanted to accept that responsibility.
Some of the better-known risks include the amount of time you may have to invest in the probate process and the stress that that might create. You may need to take time off of work and spend hours in court or on the phone handling all kinds of estate matters.
Serving as the executor of an estate might strain your relationship with other people in your family. While those personal and social risks are noteworthy, they are far from the most significant issues that might affect you as an executor. You could actually find yourself facing allegations of misconduct that result in financial consequences for you if you make a particular mistake during estate administration.
You could become responsible for debts
As the executor of the estate, you have control over estate assets. You determine who receives property from the estate and when. It is your responsibility to settle all of the remaining obligations of the deceased individual.
Your responsibilities will include an obligation to notify all known creditors about the death and also to publish notice to advise unknown creditors. Once those businesses and individuals have made claims and probate court against the estate, you will then have an obligation to pay those accounts in full or as much as you can given the assets that remain in the estate.
When can creditors make a financial claim against you?
You aren’t responsible for debts that remain if a testator did not leave behind enough property to pay all of their creditors. Unless you are a cosigner for those accounts, your obligation to pay them ends when the estate runs out of assets.
However, if you distribute property from the estate to beneficiaries without settling all of the testator’s accounts first, then creditors could take action against you personally. If you can’t recover that property from the beneficiaries, you may have to pay those debts with your own assets.
Learning more about your obligations as an executor can help you avoid mistakes during the probate process that could put you at risk.