Immediately following the death of the estate owner or trust grantor, executors/trustees should:
Secure tangible property. It’s amazing how many things “walk away” from a decedent’s home right after they die. Someone may feel that Aunt Betty would have “wanted” them to have the silver collection, so they just take it. So it is important that executors secure all tangible property – especially if that property may require an appraisal – so they can plan for the distribution of the property as outlined in the decedent’s will.
Take your time. After you have secured the tangible property, take a little time to grieve before worrying about most financial matters. You will probably want to pay bills, but these can wait a month or two without repercussion. However, you do need to notify Social Security within 30 days of the death.
Talk with your attorney. Meet with your Personal Family Lawyer® to receive the guidance you need to properly administer the estate. Any fees incurred will be paid out of the estate, not your pocket. And the advice you get will be invaluable. If you have prepared a plan with us and you are on one of our VIP Membership programs, your executor will have a no-charge meeting with us after your passing and then we will support with administration of the estate and trust at a discounted rate.
Here are some general rules, which vary from state to state, for estate executors regarding the steps that need to be taken to properly administer the estate:
1. Notify probate court. You must file the will and petition at the probate court to be officially recognized as executor. If there is no will, the heirs must petition the court to be appointed administrator.
2. Inventory the assets. You will need to compile a list of everything the decedent owned and provide that list to the probate court.
3. Open a checking account. You will need to open a single checking account on behalf of the estate to pay bills and taxes.
4. File tax returns. You must file a final income tax return for the decedent. If the estate has any assets that earn interest, you must file an income tax return for the estate. If the estate exceeds $5.12 million, you will need to file a federal estate tax return within nine months of the date of death.
5. Distribute property. After any creditor claims are satisfied and bills paid, you will need to distribute the remaining property to heirs.
6. File a final account. You must file a final account with the probate court in order to close out the estate.
If you would like to have a talk about estate planning and administration, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.