The responsibilities of the personal representative of an estate are not ones you should take lightly. The role requires a commitment to process and detail, and strict adherence to Colorado probate laws. What happens if you neglect these duties?
You may find yourself facing allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, a potentially serious legal matter.
Costly mistakes for a personal representative
The rules for serving as a personal representative can seem a bit like a minefield. One misstep and you may find yourself in serious trouble. How can you avoid this? By being mindful of common personal representative mistakes. These can include:
- Ignoring beneficiaries or playing favorites: You have a fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries, not just the ones you prefer or are familiar with. You must treat them all equally.
- Acting all-powerful: As a personal representative, there are a number of rules you must follow. Flouting these rules might get you into trouble.
- Overpaying (or not paying) creditors and taxes: Financial management is a key responsibility of a personal representative. Accurately paying both taxes and creditors is part of that.
- Ignoring the probate timeline: Probate is a clearly defined process, with one step coming after the other. If you veer off course (such as by distributing property before paying creditors), you may face questions.
- Not following through: Do not accept the role and then simply do nothing. Respond to communications, provide documents and records upon request, and do not ignore the small details.
While not an exhaustive list, these general guidelines can help you stay on the right track.
Repercussions for breach of fiduciary duty
If a personal representative fails in their duties, they may face some penalties directly related to the probate process. This might include being removed from the role altogether or loss of the probate bond. If there is serious neglect that results in injury to the plaintiff, you may also be found personally liable.
Most personal representatives have little or no issue, and the probate process proceeds without a hitch. However, if you are at all concerned about taking on these responsibilities, consider getting guidance from an attorney. They can help you navigate the process while ensuring your actions are in line with the expectations.
If accusations do begin to fly, you can also mount a strong defense.