Whether your spouse has just passed away or you have lost your mom or dad, the emotional trauma of losing a loved one often comes with a bewildering array of financial and legal issues demanding attention. It can be difficult enough for family members to handle the emotional trauma of a death, let alone taking the steps necessary to get these matters in order.
If you are the executor or representative of the will, you first should secure the tangible personal property, meaning anything you can touch such as silverware, dishes, furniture or artwork. Then, take your time while addressing bills that need to be paid. Bills can usually wait a week or two without serious repercussions. It is more important that you and your family have time to grieve.
When you are ready, you should meet with an attorney to review the steps necessary to administer the will. While the exact rules of estate planning differ from state to state, the key actions include:
- File the will and petition in probate court in order to be appointed executor.
- Collect the assets. This means that you need to find out about everything the deceased owned and file a list of inventory with the court.
- Pay the bills and taxes. If an estate tax return is due, it must be filed within nine months of the date of death.
- Distribute property to the heirs. Generally, executors do not pay out all of the estate assets until the period for creditors to make claims runs out which can be as long as a year.
- Finally, you must file an account with the court listing any income to the estate since the date of death and all expenses and estate distributions.
While some of these steps can be avoided through trusts or joint ownership arrangements, whoever is left in charge still has to pay all debts, file tax returns and distribute the property to the rightful heirs. Executors should also be mindful not to neglect life insurance and/or retirement accounts for which the deceased may have completed beneficiary designation forms and directed distribution of assets outside of the probate process.
At Linville Law, our attorneys and paralegals have helped loved ones through the probate process countless times. Sometimes, an executor has all the information he or she needs after an initial consultation and feels confident completing any remaining steps on their own. Other times, an executor may want to allow someone else to take the lead and guide them through the remaining process. It's not unusual to have at least a few questions throughout the process, and you don't have tackle them alone. We are conveniently located in south Charlotte and available for in-person or online meetings. Give us a call today: 704-323-6712.