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Addressing beneficiary disputes as an estate executor

There are numerous tasks an estate executor must complete when someone passes away, from distributing assets to filing tax returns. An executor should be ready to willing and able to fulfil these financial and legal duties.

However, one task that executors may not necessarily be prepared for is navigating complicated – and sometimes volatile – personal relationships involving the beneficiaries. If you are or will be the executor of an estate that could include difficult parties, there are some helpful tips you should know.

Familiarizing yourself with family dynamics

Whether you are related to the beneficiaries of an estate or not, you would be wise to understand the dynamics involved. Get acquainted with the parties who will be affected by the decedent’s plans. Try to understand who may be angry, who may be jealous and who may be demanding or combative.

Knowing which parties may present the most challenges can help you anticipate conflict and proceed appropriately.

Following the rules

Knowing who may create problems can be helpful, but do not feel compelled to change your approach to the distribution process to appease them. The best way you can execute an estate is by adhering to probate laws and complying with the wishes of the decedent.

The fact is that a person’s will can create family rifts and give rise to controversy. As the executor, however, you are responsible for carrying them out according to the laws or the decedent’s wishes.

Prioritizing open communication

When beneficiaries are combative, unhappy or otherwise upset after the decedent’s passing, providing clear and regular communication can be critical.

Failure to keep people updated and informed can make them feel ignored. It can allow worries to fester. And when parties feel lied to or misinformed, they may assume the executor is doing something wrong. As such, ongoing communication with beneficiaries can be enormously helpful.

Protecting yourself from contention

As an executor, you can become the beneficiaries’ target for anger and frustration. Undoubtedly, this can be difficult. However, if you are working with a lawyer, he or she can provide guidance and support that help you fulfil your duties confidently, which can be the best defence against contentious parties.

Administering an estate is a challenge, especially when there are disruptive parties involved. However, familiarizing yourself with the beneficiaries, fulfilling your duties faithfully and proceeding confidently can all help you navigate the situation more easily.

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