Estate administrators are tasked with substantial, time-consuming and potentially contested responsibilities following the death of a loved one. While you may feel honored to take on the responsibility at the request of a family member or friend, the legal process to follow can be complex and arduous.

Whether your loved one asked you to be their estate administrator or you only found out after their death, you may become quickly overwhelmed with your tasks. Especially if you live outside New York or even in a neighboring town, your role can require much of your time and energy. You may question what exactly your responsibilities are and how to properly execute them.

Your immediate to-do list

Depending on the specifics of the will, you could have a rather lengthy or simple to-do list. In almost all cases, your first steps should include filing a petition to the appropriate New York court to begin the probate process, alerting beneficiaries, gathering and protecting all assets, paying necessary expenses and filing tax returns.

What not to do as estate administrator

With so many duties and responsibilities, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and make critical errors. According to Forbes, here are a few tips on what not to do:

  • Do not ignore the beneficiaries. As the estate administrator, you have a fiduciary duty to uphold the interests of all beneficiaries of the will.
  • Do not let others take the reins. While you may wish to solicit the advice of others close to the deceased, your loved one chose you for a reason.
  • Do not fail to consult with an attorney. Whether you work with your own lawyer or that of the deceased, this can be critical to efficiently navigate probate.
  • Do not underestimate your responsibilities. As estate administrator, you have personal liability. Certain errors could cost you personally.

The role of the estate administrator is a critical position tasked with the duties of carrying out the wishes of the deceased individual’s thoughtfully constructed estate plan. Carefully navigate your duties, consult with legal professionals when necessary and do your best to fulfill the wishes of your loved one as they intended.