One of the most common mistakes made by persons who have been named to serve as personal representatives, executors (males) or executrixes (females) of a deceased person’s (the “decedent’s”) estate is acting upon the decedent’s wishes immediately after death. Many people who believe they automatically stand in the shoes of a person who died, (normally referred to in a Will as having been “nominated to serve”), are in fact, only nominated to act on behalf of the decedent and have no real legal authority. Most people are unaware that until the Will has been submitted to the probate court in the county or jurisdiction where the decedent was a permanent resident and is declared by that probate court to be the final Will of the decedent, it is illegal to take any action on behalf of, or in the name of the decedent.
Unfortunately, many nominated executors/executrixes take actions that they believe are in the best interests of the estate (according to the Will), only to later discover, perhaps in a lawsuit, that their actions taken before the Will was admitted to probate were not legal and may ultimately result in liability for the estate and/or for themselves personally.
If you are a person who has been nominated to serve as a personal representative, or an executor or executrix, please remember first to file the Will your loved one left behind with the appropriate court. Then seek the advice of an experienced probate attorney and the court’s approval before taking any actions that you believe will carry out the wishes stated in your loved one’s Will.