Bringing More Than 25 Years Of Experience To The Austin And Dripping Springs Community

3 ways for an estate representative to protect themselves

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2024 | Estate Planning

Acting as the personal representative of a Texas estate involves a long-term commitment. Personal representatives must oversee the entire probate process, which often takes well over a year to complete. They also put themselves at risk of various forms of liability.

If they make mistakes regarding how they manage estate resources, they could face lawsuits brought by beneficiaries. Creditors and tax authorities could also try to hold them personally accountable if they fail to take the right steps to fulfill someone’s financial obligations.

Additionally, service as a personal representative could potentially have a damaging impact on someone’s relationships with family members and others who have an interest in the estate. How can personal representatives work to protect themselves from conflict and liability that could affect them for long after the end of the probate process?

With the right support

It is often advisable for the personal representative of an estate to secure legal representation. An attorney can advise them on their responsibilities. Their advice can help someone take the right steps regarding the notification of creditors and the fulfillment of tax responsibilities. Typically, the estate itself can cover the cost of hiring an attorney. The sooner in the process a personal representative obtains guidance, the less likely they are to make costly mistakes.

With appropriate communication

A big component of a personal representative’s job involves communicating with others about the estate. From creditors and tax authorities to beneficiaries, there are many parties who want to know about the status of an estate and who have an interest in the assets it holds. Identifying and communicating with the right parties as early in the process as possible can reduce the likelihood of failing to pay creditors or taking actions that contradict the instructions of the decedent.

With thorough documentation

People on the outside watching the estate administration process could make several incorrect assumptions about the estate, its personal representative and their actions. It is therefore beneficial for the personal representative to maintain as much documentation as possible throughout the probate process. From copies of letters and records of when they sent those letters to an inventory of assets and receipts for each asset distributed, there are numerous records that can protect a representative.

Proper records can help establish that a representative fulfilled their communication responsibilities and properly managed estate resources. If someone attempts to initiate probate litigation, the records maintained by the personal representative could help them maintain their position and avoid personal liability.

Identifying and preparing for the potential risks involved in the probate process can be helpful for those serving as personal representatives. Support and thorough records can largely reduce the risk a representative must accept.