Steps To Be Taken When Handling An Estate

For purposes of this article, let’s assume a family or friend of yours has died. If this individual had a will, let’s assume you are named as the executor of the will. If this individual has no will, let’s assume you are going to act as the administrator of the estate.

Hire An Experienced Estate or Probate Lawyer

During the normal course of events, individuals do not become sophisticated with regard to how to handle the issues when a family member or friend dies. Your first step should be to hire a competent, experienced, personable, estates attorney who you feel you have a rapport with. This attorney will guide you through all of the steps necessary to handle the probate process, the administration of the estate, and the eventual distribution of the assets of the estate.

Issues to Be Dealt With In Estates

The following is a list of some of the items, you as the executor or administrator of the estate, should deal with under the supervision of an experienced estates lawyer. It should be noted, some attorneys will take over all aspects of the estate and you will have no responsibility to handle any of these things. However, you should still be aware of what is involved in handling an estate.

  1. Find the will!  You should look through the deceased individual’s important papers and see if he or she has drafted a will and/or other estate planning documents. There may be a safe deposit box, or a fire proof box in the house where these documents are located. While searching for the will or other estate planning documents, you should also go through all other important papers of the decedent. You should find tax returns for prior years, information concerning stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and all other assets. After finding all of this information, you should gather them together and meet with the attorney handling the estate and discuss how these things will be dealt with.
  2. Social Security issues. You should notify the Social Security Administration immediately when someone dies and advise them to stop sending the checks to the house. Accepting Social Security checks after someone dies is a crime. You can contact the Social Security Administration online or you can call them. Their phone number is 1-800-772-1213. There may also be Social Security death benefits or benefits available for the surviving spouse of the decedent. You should speak to the attorney handling the case about these matters.
  3. Veterans’ Benefits. If the individual who died was a veteran, you should contact the Veterans’ Administration and discuss with them if there are veterans’ benefits. Veterans are entitled to certain specific benefits with regard to funerals. There is a lovely flag ceremony that is provided by the armed services for veterans when they die. The phone number for the Veterans’ Administration is 1-800-827-1000. You should also look into locating a veterans’ office in your locality. Spouses and children of veterans may be entitled to certain pension benefits, death benefits, and/or benefits related to education of the deceased veterans’ children.
  4. Make an inventory of the assets.  We had earlier discussed locating the important papers concerning the assets. You should make an inventory of all important assets of the decedent including bank accounts, life insurance policies, IRAs, annuities, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, pensions, profit sharing plans, stocks, bonds, real estate holdings, annuities, certificates of deposit, household goods, furniture, personal belongings, antiques, silver, jewelry, art, coin collections and all other assets of every type or nature. This inventory thereafter should be presented to the attorney who will have to file an inventory with the court with regard to the value of the estate.

estate planning attorneyThe aforementioned are all of the initial steps needed to be undertaken with regard to your being the administrator or the executor of an estate. It should be noted the probate or administration process will usually take a year or more. You should be patient and work with your attorney during this time period.