Your brother, sister, aunt, or best friend put you in charge of their estate — nobody else. The odds may be high that they anticipated problems from some of their heirs. Now, however, the burden is now on your shoulders.
So, what can you do to protect yourself from allegations of self-dealing, misuse or simple incompetence from the estate’s heirs? Below are some suggestions to employ.
Being proactive with the heirs can set the tone for future interactions
Some people are, by nature or design, confrontational or suspicious. Most people, however, just respond badly to uncertainty. The more questions the heirs have, the more likely you are to encounter resistance and problems.
So, how do you combat this? You take charge:
- Secure the deceased’s estate. Let the heirs know that you are locking the house and taking an inventory of the deceased’s belongings. That can discourage anyone from trying to take the family heirlooms before you have a chance to distribute them properly.
- Explain what will happen. Long gone are the days when an attorney gathered the heirs around for a reading of the deceased’s will, but that doesn’t stop you from letting the heirs know what to expect. You are free to discuss the deceased’s will and wishes with the heirs — and you probably should.
- Hire someone (or several someones) to help. An attorney can help you manage the probate process, but you may also need to hire cleaners, appraisers, accountants and investment advisors, depending on the assets involved.
- Communicate regularly. As the probate process drags on, the heirs may grow anxious. Sending regular communication to them all will help you avoid allegations that you aren’t staying in contact or keeping them informed. It may also allay their fears.
Remember: Handling an estate can be a big job, and litigation is always possible when the heirs are unhappy. Don’t be afraid to reach out for experienced legal assistance during the process.