Did you recently lose a loved one? Perhaps a parent, sibling, or another close family member? Are you the executor of their estate? Being executor can be a complex and difficult job, especially if the individual had many assets or if they have a complicated financial situation. In many cases, the estate may need to go through probate, which is a legal process that can take weeks or even months to complete.
Probate is the legal process of settling the estate. As executor, you work with the local courts to make sure there aren't any outstanding debts or financial issues before assets are distributed to heirs. You may need to file tax returns or pay debts to the IRS. You may have to resolve outstanding debts to creditors. There's also a chance that you may need to liquidate certain assets, like homes, cars, or other property. Below are a few tips to guide you through the probate process.
Secure the estate as soon as you can
One of the challenges in being the executor is that some heirs may not fully understand your role or the process. They may believe that once the loved one has passed, they can go through the home and place claim on furniture, collectibles, cars, and more. Of course, as executor, you may need to sell those items to pay the deceased's debts. There's no way to know until you can complete a thorough analysis of their financial records.
Start by collecting all keys on the home or even changing the locks. Also, notify the heirs of the process and that it may take some time before assets are distributed. Be sure to communicate with them frequently so they know you are acting in good faith and simply exercising your fiduciary duty.
Publish a death notice
One of your primary responsibilities is to communicate to all creditors that the individual has passed away. Some debts will be canceled with his or her passing. However, others still need to be paid even though he or she has passed away. Of course, it may be difficult or even impossible for you to identify every possible creditor. In many cases, you can simply publish a death notice in a local paper to satisfy much of your responsibility. A probate lawyer can help you further with this step, but often a published death notice satisfies your requirement to communicate with all creditors. After you publish the notice, it's their responsibility to contact you and work out payment.
Track down all assets
Perhaps the toughest job of an executor is to track down all potential assets. You may want to start with the deceased's bank. The bank statements can usually provide clues about other accounts, like life insurance, investment accounts, and more. You also may want to contact their financial advisor, accountant, and possibly even their most recent employer to see if they have any information about potential assets that can be used to pay debts or can be distributed to heirs.
Ready to put the difficult work of probate behind you? Contact a probate attorney at a firm like Davis & Mathis in your area. They can save you time and stress and help you efficiently move through the process.Share
15 March 2019
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