If you’ve recently lost a loved one and have found out you are the executor of the estate, you may feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought. Being an executor is a huge responsibility, but most people don’t appoint someone as executor unless they feel that person can handle the job. However, it may be a good idea for you to retain a estate lawyer Sacramento relies on. Your attorney can help you throughout the probate process as they advise you on the laws and make sure you’re covering everything for which you are responsible. In the meantime, we’d like to provide you with a checklist for settling an estate and the probate process.
Collect Documentation.The first thing you’ll need to do is identify, locate and organize the deceased’s tax returns, financial documents, and other important items. Hopefully, the deceased had already advised you on where to find this information among their personal effects.
Depending on the deceased’s circumstances, you will need to call key and relevant parties such as the Social Security Administration, Veterans’ Administration, and insurance companies to notify them of the individual’s death. You may also have to call mortgage companies, credit card companies, and the individual’s employer. You’ll need death certificates for most of these companies and agencies, so be sure to have enough on hand. You can always purchase additional copies but be mindful of the potential delay in receiving them.
Your next step is to file the will with the probate court. You’ll need to probate the will if there are assets that needs to be transferred and are not held in trust. Another exception is any asset that is jointly owned will not have to pass through the probate process. This is where a probate attorney can help you as he or she can determine which assets need to be probated and which do not. It is highly possible that there is no property that would need to pass through probate court, and if that’s the case, this process will be much easier and cheaper.
After you have filed the will in probate court, you will need to set up an estate checking account and pay the bills. You’ll need to pay all outstanding debts before the estate can be considered closed and you can distribute the remaining monies to the heirs.
Once the taxes have been filed and paid, and all expenses are paid out, you can distribute the remaining assets. You may also be entitled to an executor’s fee, so you should talk more about that with your estate attorney.
Also, you’ll need to file the deceased’s tax return. If you are unsure of how to do this, your attorney or an accountant can assist you. You may need to file both an estate return and the personal income tax return for the deceased. To avoid issue with the Internal Revenue Service it’s best to verify this with a financial or legal professional.
Most probate attorneys will offer a free initial consultation. This is an excellent opportunity to find out if you need the legal help of an attorney or if you can settle the estate on your own.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Yee Law Group for their insight into settling an estate.