You have been appointed as the Personal Representative of your mother’s estate. Your brothers and sisters congratulate you, and for the first two weeks everything works well-family is supportive, friends give you plenty of slack, and the estate creditors assure you that you have plenty of time. You have this.
Then, the real work begins.
Valuing assets. Figuring out debts. Getting accounts squared away. Paying for the funeral and final expenses. Sending out notices. Having child support searches done. Figuring out taxes. The list goes on and on, it seems.
Your relatives, previously warm and comforting, slowly begin to pepper you with questions. Did mom have a pension? Did she have an IRA? How much is the house worth? Who will receive the car? What happens with the personal effects? Are there any income taxes? Did you find the piece of jewelry that mom said she had hidden away, and had promised to sister/brother/niece/grandchild? And, of course, when will the estate be done so they can receive the inheritance?
It quickly has become a full time job with no set time boundaries, and threatens to take up all your time. However, your boss, your co-workers, your spouse or partner, your children…all remind you that you have previous and continuing obligations to them. They are insistent in a loving way, and you find comfort in attending to those familiar obligations. Dealing with the estate administration seems more difficult and time consuming, and you find yourself promising to handle the estate administration duties “tomorrow”. You begin to ignore the questions of relatives, and gradually life takes over. Without awareness on your part, months slip by, and it becomes easier and easier to forget the obligations of the estate.
One of the biggest causes of litigation in Estate matters is simply delay, and a failure of the fiduciary to adequately communicate the reason for the delay. The court and taxing agencies have strict deadlines that need to be followed, and the failure to meet those deadlines can create problems for the estate.