The role of an estate administrator also referred to as an executor, is to ensure that the deceased’s final wishes are followed and all of the legal obligations of the estate are fulfilled. Being chosen as an executor is considered an honor, but it is also an extremely difficult task that can lead to major problems if things are not done correestate-relatedebrity turned politician Sonny Bono passed away unexpectedly, his fourth wife became the executor of his estate. Instead of grieving, the widow spent years dealing with lawsuits and accusations of making executor errors that prolonged probate. The estate was finally divided between herself and Bono’s two children from previous marriages, but the entire situation was a powerful example of how executor mistakes can impact your estate.

Paying Debts in the Wrong Order

One of the primary responsibilities of an executor is paying estate-related bills in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, some executors are not aware of what debts take priority and begin paying the wrong bills first. Funeral expenses and taxes are two debts that should be paid immediately and the executor is responsible for making sure these bills are paid. Paying credit card bills or business related debts before funeral costs, taxes, or court-ordered payments can cause serious problems.

Not Verifying Debts

When a loved one passes away, the last thing anyone expects is that someone will try to take advantage of their loss. In reality, the number of people seeking to take advantage of the family or friends of the recently deceased is increasing. People may approach the executor of your estate with bills for fraudulent probate fees, loans that were never made, or other falsified debts.  Paying these debts without verifying whether or not they are legitimate could drain the estate of money that is needed to pay legitimate debts.

Making Early Distributions

An executor who is overwhelmed and under pressure from beneficiaries may begin making distributions too early. While liquidating assets and giving beneficiaries their shares will make them happy, that opens the executor up to personal liability. Making distributions in the hopes of getting the probate process over with could leave your executor in a horrible legal and financial position since once the assets are distributed, most beneficiaries will not return them after an error is discovered.

Not Seeking Help

The role of executor is titime-consumingnd the more debts or assets that the deceased had, the more difficult things become. Many executors make the mistake of assuming that the work must be done alone and do not seek outside help. However, the best way to properly execute a large or otherwise complicated estate is to get outside help. A trust administration lawyer or a probate lawyer can help you navigate the entire administration process.

The team at MMZ Law is standing by ready to use our years of experience to your advantage.  We are able to guide you through the process of being an executor and help you avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with the difficult task. Contact us today at 909-256-6702 to schedule a consultation so that we can begin providing you with the legal advice that you need.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.