First-Time Executor in Probate

First-Time Executor in Probate in Los Angeles, CA

If you’re a first-time Executor, you may be feeling overwhelmed in many ways by having been nominated (and appointed) to represent the interests of your loved one’s estate. Though the fact that your loved one considered you for such an important role may inspire warm, gracious feelings, and rightly so, you may also be quite anxious as to the responsibilities that have now been imposed on you.

We can help.

Here at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman in North Hills, CA, we understand that being a first-time Executor can be challenging, even if your loved one gave you plenty of advance notice as to their intention to have you serve as Executor of their estate. Fortunately, you don’t have to go into the probate process alone. With the aid of an experienced California probate administration attorney, you will have the benefit of skilled, professional guidance through every stage of the probate process.

Northridge Executors Owe a Fiduciary Duty

In California, and elsewhere, Executors owe a strict fiduciary duty when administering the estate at issue. This fiduciary duty requires that the Executor avoid conflicts of interest, act honestly, and make decisions that are in the best interests of the estate. Further, the Executor must adhere to a standard of behavior akin to that of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances.

Suppose, for example, that you have been appointed as Executor of an estate in Los Angeles, CA. As the Executor, one of your responsibilities is to manage estate assets, which may require that you invest some of the funds. Now, imagine that you invest a substantial portion of the estate funds in a very risky investment apparatus and, consequently, those funds are lost.

What will happen?

Whether the court deems your behavior a breach of the fiduciary duty depends on the totality of the circumstances. The court will evaluate the investment and determine whether the risk was reasonably known (or should have been known) to you at the time. If the investment was unreasonably risky, if you did not consult with professional advisors beforehand, and if the loss significantly affected the assets available to creditors and beneficiaries, then you will likely be exposed to personal liability for breach of the fiduciary duty — after all, the facts will point to you having failed to act as a “reasonably prudent” person.

Considerations of a First-Time Executor in Mission Hills, CA

Executors have a wide range of responsibilities that include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • Identifying and collecting unpaid assets.
  • Inventorying and appraising assets.
  • Managing estate assets.
  • Initiating probate proceedings.
  • Validating the Will.
  • Paying taxes and debts.
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  • Closing out the estate.
  • And more!

Given the surprising breadth and depth of Executor responsibility, first-timers are generally encouraged to seek the assistance of experienced probate administration professionals, such as the knowledgeable probate attorney here at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman in North Hills, California.

Secure Professional Assistance from a Los Angeles Estate Administration Lawyer

Executors need not be qualified to accomplish all the legally-imposed responsibilities on their own. As a general rule, California Executors (particularly first-timers) are expected to secure professional assistance.

For example, Executors must inventory and appraise all the estate assets. Typically, however, the Executor is not a professional appraiser. The Executor must therefore seek out an appraiser and pay them for their services. In fact, outsourcing certain responsibilities may be legally necessary. If the Executor attempts to conduct an appraisal on their own (despite not being qualified to do so), they could be found liable for breaching their fiduciary duty.

Contact an Experienced North Hills Probate Attorney for Guidance

Santa Clarita probate attorney Darrell C. Harriman has spent over three decades representing both California and out-of-state Executors, providing comprehensive probate administration services that minimize the potential for fiduciary duty liability and ensure a satisfactory “winding down” of the estate at issue.

In California, there are many generalist attorneys currently offering probate administration assistance. Though it’s possible for a generalist to provide effective legal representation in handling probate issues, it’s a risky proposition when the probate calculus becomes unexpectedly complicated, perhaps due to hostile creditors or aggressive beneficiaries looking to contest the Will. It is far better to consult with a specialist probate attorney who has seen everything from straightforward cases to high-conflict probate battles and who is well-equipped to navigate the complexities of probate administration in Chatsworth, Mission Hills, Northridge, Santa Clarita, and elsewhere in CA.

Call (818) 435-4728 or submit an online form today to schedule a free consultation with a skilled North Hills probate attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman.