Executor Risks and Responsibilities in California

In California, and throughout the country, the law imposes a number of duties and responsibilities on Executors — those who have been appointed to administer an estate in accordance with the terms of a valid Will. These estate administration duties and responsibilities may seem overwhelming to those who have little experience in similar high-expectation capacities.

Here at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman in North Hills, CA, our attorneys have spent decades providing extensive probate administration services to both in-state (California) and out-of-state Executors looking for professional assistance in performing their various legal duties. If you are concerned about how to go about your Executor duties, it’s worth getting in touch with one of our experienced San Fernando Valley probate administration attorneys. We will evaluate the Will and ensure that you do not run afoul of the duties and responsibilities therein.

Basic Responsibilities of an Executor in California

It’s important to note that you are not required to serve as an Executor just because you’ve been nominated by the deceased. The probate court cannot compel you to serve if you are uninterested in doing so. Still, it is generally considered a great honor to be nominated as the Executor of an estate, and — with the aid of a knowledgeable Mission Hills estate administration attorney — you will not necessarily have to shoulder much direct responsibility.

So, what exactly is required of an Executor under California law?

California Executors are expected to administer and essentially wind down a given estate. This means that the Executor must inventory, appraise, and manage the estate assets, notify all relevant beneficiaries as to the death of the deceased (as well as probate hearings), account for taxes, pay debts to creditors, and maintain proper records.

Potential Liability for Northridge Executors Who Avoid Responsibility

When acting in their capacity as the administrator of the estate, CA Executors are held to a strict fiduciary duty. In other words, Executors must act like a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances. They must also act impartially, and they must be honest and fair with regard to their dealings. The Executor cannot use their unique position to secure a financial benefit (beyond the normal payment owed to the Executor for their services).

For example, an Executor cannot sell real property assets owned by the estate to themselves at a below-market rate. This would constitute an unfair and dishonest act for the purpose of gaining an advantage – an act enabled by their position as Executor.

Breach of the fiduciary duty could result in the imposition of personal liability on the Executor and possibly significant damages. Executors expose themselves to substantial risks when handling the administration of an estate in California. For this reason, it’s critical that you consult with an experienced Los Angeles estate administration attorney who can evaluate the legality of your actions in the context of your various fiduciary duties and responsibilities.

Even if you have “good intentions” and are acting honestly, you may run afoul of your fiduciary duty. For example, suppose that you are managing estate assets and you would like to grow the assets through investment. You invest the assets in a high-risk, high-reward fund, which leads to severe losses. Though you have not engaged in dishonest self-dealing, you may have still violated your fiduciary duty to act as a reasonably prudent person. As a result, you could potentially be held personally liable for the losses.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Probate Attorney for Assistance

Here at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman in North Hills, California, our Los Angeles probate attorney has decades of experience assisting Executor clients with probate administration issues, as well as breach of fiduciary duty litigation. We understand that the responsibilities of being an Executor may have been foisted upon you unexpectedly. We believe that by maintaining open lines of communication throughout the engagement process, we can more closely align our strategic interests and ensure a favorable outcome for you.

If you’ve been appointed the Executor of an estate in Santa Clarita, Mission Hills, Chatsworth, or anywhere else in California, call the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman at (818) 435-4728 or submit an online form today to set up a free consultation with an experienced California probate attorney.