Being the executor of a Massachusetts estate is a major responsibility. This person will need to proficiently settle the estate's final affairs while also trying to mitigate the potential conflicts that could arise with surviving family members. Often, it is the assets that cause the most contention during estate administration.
It is not unusual for beneficiaries and other individuals to ask executors for pieces of property almost immediately after the person's death. However, distributing assets is not the first step that an executor needs to take. In fact, if an executor begins making distributions early, it is possible that serious consequences could result that could lead to personal and legal liability for the executor. Additionally, the court typically does not approve property distributions until the probate process is finished.
Of course, certain exceptions may exist. For instance, if the deceased had bequeathed a specific item to a beneficiary, and keeping that item throughout probate causes the estate to lose money, early distribution of that specific item may be approved. If a residuary bequest has been made, or one that involves gifting the remaining assets of the estate after probate, this gift cannot be distributed early because the executor would not know how much of the estate will remain after probate.
Commonly, individuals acting as executor do not have extensive legal knowledge. As a result, they may not understand the full impact their decisions could have on the estate administration process. To work toward avoiding mistakes, it is wise for Massachusetts executors to consult with attorneys about the appropriate way to settle remaining estates.