How to Settle An Estate
If you have been appointed executor of a will, there are several steps in settling the estate. An experienced estate attorney can assist you along the way, if necessary. You will need to accomplish the following:
- Find the will if there is one. Not all people prepare wills and sometimes a will can not be found. In these cases the person dies “intestate.” If there is a safe deposit box, as executor you should be able to open it for the purpose of determining if the will is there.
- Determine whether probate is necessary.
- File the will with the local probate court if the estate is required to be probated based on it’s value. Not all will require probate. Make a copy for yourself first.
- Notify relevant agencies and businesses of the death. For example,
the post office
credit card companies
federal agencies that had provided public benefits such as the Social Security Administration
- Inventory assets and obtain appraisals. Determine how title to assets is held.
- Coordinate with the successor trustee if there is a living trust.
- Communicate with beneficiaries. If the estate goes through probate, you will have to send formal notices.
- Take good care of estate assets. You must keep real estate well maintained, valuables secure, and everything of value insured.
- Collect money owed to the estate.
- Pay estate bills from estate funds.
- File an income tax return for the estate. You may wish to seek the advice of an accountant or tax preparer.
- Distribute the assets.
Given the many steps involved in the process, you may wish to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney in the process.