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Defending your actions and decisions as executor of an estate

There's a very good reason that most testators specifically set aside some amount of financial compensation for the person they name as executor or administrator for their estate. After all, handling an estate is stressful work, bordering on a full-time job.

In addition to obtaining records and paying bills, an executor or administrator must do their best to fulfill all of the expectations set by the deceased party in their last will. That could be a pretty difficult job to perform, especially for someone who already has a job or a family to care for.

Still, most people serving as executor or administrator for an estate want to do right by the person who trusted them with that authority. Even if you fulfill your obligations to the estate to the best of your ability, you may find yourself dealing with contentious or angry heirs, family members or estate beneficiaries who want to challenge your role or performance as administrator.

Perform every task as though it will be subject to intense scrutiny

If you know what needs to be done and have the time and ability to do it, you may want to handle things as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, efficiency won't be the primary guiding factor in the administration of an estate. Instead, careful compliance with the requests of the deceased and the laws of the state of Colorado are what matter most.

You should make sure that the will or estate plan is valid and that all of the terms set in the document comply with state law before you begin handling the estate. Once you do assume your role officially, make it a priority to document every single thing you do.

From calling creditors to giving the vintage family china to a granddaughter of the deceased, you need a thorough record of every asset you distribute and every bill you pay. That way, if someone does bring a challenge against you, you can prove you have been fulfilling your obligations to the best of your ability.

Prepare for a long, potentially expensive legal ordeal

People expecting a massive windfall from an estate may take legal action when reality doesn't measure up to their expectations. Challenging the estate or executor may seem like a way for that person to secure a bigger piece of the proverbial pie.

However, what they are actually doing is diminishing the overall size of the pie, which means that even if they do manage to get a bigger slice, they may still end up with the same amount of pie overall. It is unfortunate that the actions of one individual could impact the inheritance of many and the legacy of someone else, but you can't control the actions of others.

All you can control is how you manage the estate and record your actions. Provided that you fulfill your duty and follow the wishes of the testator, you should be able to defend against complaints and challenges brought by those unhappy with the terms of the estate.

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