Most Bridgewater area residents do not have a lot of experience in dealing with a person’s estate after they pass away. It’s not something we do on a regular basis, so when the time comes it can be confusing and stressful. If you find yourself as an estate executor there are some steps you will need to follow.
- Take an inventory of the deceased’s estate. An executor needs to find the descendant’s estate planning documents. These may include a will, funeral instructions and trust documents. An executor should also locate important papers such as bank statements, brokerage statements, stock certificates, car and boat titles, real estate deeds, life insurance policies and corporate records. Any statements showing debts should also be included.
- Open the probate estate. Using an attorney skilled in estate administration, you should draft the court documents required to open the probate estate.
- Asset valuation. Once the probate estate has been opened in court, the descendant’s assets will need to be valued at their date-of-death value. All financial institutions where the descendant had assets will need to provide the date-of-death value. An appraiser will need to value property, art, and businesses.
- Pay final bills. An executor will need to pay the descendant’s final bills and the ongoing expenses of administering the estate.
- Pay taxes. After the final bills have been paid, the executor will need to pay any income taxes and death taxes that may be due.
- Distribute assets. The very last step is distributing the assets remaining to the beneficiaries.
An attorney who specializes in estate administration can help an estate executor through this entire process to ensure it goes smoothly and follows state and federal probate law.