First Steps for Managing an Estate

In the event you are given the job of managing the Estate of a family member or friend, do you know the steps to follow?

An executor is the person named in a Will to settle the Estate when an individual dies.  This executor’s job is much harder if the information the executor needs has not been organized in advance.  Following is a list of customary steps needed to conclude the many aspects of the life of a deceased person:

  1. Obtain death certificates from the funeral director.
  2. Meet with an attorney who is experienced in estate administration.
  3. If necessary, visit the Courthouse of the County in which the decedent died to be appointed the executor of the estate (or administrator if there is no Will) by the Register of Wills of that county. The lawyer with whom you are working can provide all the forms and directions to do this.
  4. Put together a list of heirs, next of kin and beneficiaries, together with their addresses and e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
  5. Go through the decedent’s records to obtain information concerning accounts, debts, life insurance policies and real estate. Obtaining a copy of the decedent’s last income tax return will be very helpful in determining what assets you are looking for.
  6. If the decedent had a home, secure the home by changing locks as necessary to restrict access to the home until the estate inventory has been completed.
  7. File and collect life insurance claims.
  8. Notify military records as appropriate.
  9. File for social security benefits, as appropriate.
  10. Contact the decedent’s employer to find out about any employment related benefits.
  11. Notify all creditors of the decedent’s death, cancel all credit cards.
  12. Open an Estate bank account to hold monies that are owed the decedent.
  13. Notify banks and stock brokers of the death.
  14. Examine and approve or reject claims of creditors, as needed.
  15. Notify all beneficiaries of decedent’s death.
  16. Determine the continuing expenses that must be paid such as mortgage payment, homeowner premiums and utility bills.
  17. Contact the income tax preparer of the decedent and notify him/her of the death and work together with him/her on the income tax return for the year of decedent’s death and the income tax returns for the estate.
  18. Prepare and file any inheritance and Estate tax return as required and arrange for sufficient liquid assets to pay the taxes due.
  19. Work with the heirs on the division and distribution of personal property in the home.
  20. If the decedent owned a home, prepare the home for listing for sale.
  21. Collect all records of receipts and disbursements you make in the process of the estate administration.

A lawyer experienced in estate administration can make this process move much more quickly and efficiently. They can suggest the appropriate resources to help with the sale of the home, its contents, and how to manage the estate investments.

Contact Stacey Willits McConnell, Chair of Lamb McErlane’s Estates Department, if you need help with administering an estate or advice on making this process as streamlined as possible for your family.