When you are an estate executor, figuring out your first steps to manage and distribute an estate can be daunting. There are many things to do, and no indication of what to make a priority. If you do a few tasks first, however, it will make the rest of your job easier.
Get Copies of the Death Certificate
You are going to need the deceased person’s death certificate to complete many tasks related to the estate. The funeral home or coroner’s office may give you a copy upon request, or you may need to request it through the city depending on where you are located. You should request the official death certificate and order many copies (more than you think you need). You will use these copies to gain access to financial accounts, deal with probate, file taxes, make life insurance claims, notify organizations such as the SSA, and more.
Make Funeral Arrangements
If the deceased person’s will contained instructions for the funeral, burial, memorial service, or body donation to science, you will need to carry out those directions. If the deceased person signed an advance directive that contained these instructions, coordinate with the agent named in the advance directive to make the arrangements.
In either case, it is often a good idea to notify the family of what you are doing and why. Being in communication with family members can prevent misunderstandings and smooth the estate distribution process.
Begin Locating and Preserving Assets
As executor, you have the responsibility of managing the deceased person’s assets until the estate is settled. Some assets may need immediate attention – a house with a mortgage that will default if the estate does not make a payment, or children and pets that need care. You may need to set up a bank account quickly to handle money incoming to the estate. All of these tasks can be overwhelming, so seek out a lawyer’s assistance if you need it, sooner rather than later.
Communicate with Other People Involved in the Estate
Again, communicating with family members of the deceased person is often helpful. In addition, you may need to talk to the deceased person’s lawyer, accountant, business partner, insurance agent, and many more people to get help locating estate assets and accessing accounts.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.